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Publisher's Summary

What defines a civilization? How did the first states emerge? How were the world's ancient states similar and different? Answer these and other dramatic questions with this grand 48-lecture course that reveals how human beings around the world transitioned from small farming communities to the impressive cultural and political systems that would alter the course of history.
Taking a gripping archaeological and historical approach to formative states such as the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Maya, Professor MacEachern completes your understanding of the history of civilization by exploring it at its earliest stages. Unlike traditional surveys of ancient civilizations, which tend to focus only on the glorious achievements of these cultures, you'll look at those first all-important steps that the world's first civilizations would take on the road to glory.
You'll investigate places such as Mesopotamia, where agriculture laid the foundation for groundbreaking experiments in social and political development in places like Uruk and Sumer; the eastern Mediterranean, where expanding maritime trade during the Bronze Age increasingly knit the different societies of these islands into a web of political and economic relationships; and Mesoamerica, where the indigenous states in and around what are now Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua reveal the full flowering of Olmec and Maya civilization.
You'll also take an engaging look at what archaeologists have learned from some of the world's oldest and most intriguing sites. In the end, these lectures will leave you awestruck at the diverse ways that ancient people crafted complex systems - systems whose broad strokes remain with us even today.
©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Neema on 12-16-13

Not good as an intro to civilazations.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I was looking for an entry point to the study of how civilizations arose. This lecture series ended up going into significant detail about archeological methods and various early civilizations (much much more detail than I wanted). If you're looking for a basic intro to summarize basic archeology and how and in what context the major civilizations arose, this is not ideal. Though, I imagine for somebody who already has a basic understanding of ancient civilizations, this degree of detail would likely be welcomed.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?


What do you think the narrator could have done better?


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7 of 8 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By John Averitt on 06-28-15

Worst Great Courses Lecture Yet.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Cutting the First 3 Hours. Scott repeats himself enough that pretty much anything of interest covered in those first 3 hours, is revisited again later when its more revenant.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Yes, but only because I have had several other positive experiences.

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Scott MacEachern’s performances?


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Origin of Civilization?

The first 6 Chapters.

Any additional comments?

Professor Scott MacEachern’s does not respect you or your time. The first 3 hours (6 lectures) of this course are on Archeological theory and personal anecdote. Professor Scott MacEachern knows that that students dislike how he presents this content, because he makes a Joke about it.

It's not only that the first 3 hours of this course are archeological theory, which is BARELY hinted at in the description of the course. It's that it includes a comparative the history of archeological theory with almost everything happening in the abstract.

Yes I get it the theory is important, but weave in in throughout the lecture. Introduce concepts at the same time it become relevant. Demonstrate the weakness of models in describing reality, don't just talk about them.

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3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By missfrizzy on 07-23-15


Really interesting overview of the origin of prehistoric civilisations and the archaeological methods and theories of the rise of states.
This was my first download of the great courses series and I'm looking forward to listening to many more. I was surprised how well the half hour lecture format suits the way I use the audible app.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Kindle Customer on 02-07-18

Could be better if shorter

As usual with all the long 48 lectures the lecturers are stretched to the limit to fill it out and they would be much more satisfactory at half the number so I more of less skipped the first 10 lectures. Otherwise its interesting but there are other courses with similar content

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