The Origin of Civilization : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Scott MacEachern
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 24 hrs and 2 mins
  • Lecture

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.


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Customer Reviews

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I was so excited when I got the email from Audible about The Great Courses series. I love lectures and there's a lot to choose from in this collection. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the prices, though. So I decided to pick something that I love, but would like to know more about.

As an art student in college, I learned about ancient civilizations through beautiful works they created. But I've always wanted to know more. I want to know what they wore, what they talked about, what they worried about, how they lived and what they held sacred. This lecture promised to tell me all of those things. And it did.

In the first few lectures, Scott MacEachern talks about archeological theory. It's boring and interesting at the same time. It's a tedious topic, but something that I was previously unaware of. He talks about getting away from researching grand structures and, instead, looking at how commoners lived. That's very much what I wanted to know. He also stressed that we make a mistake when we compare ancient cultures to modern. They lived and thought in completely different ways than we do. I'm not sure why, but it's very hard for me to think of it in that way, as I'm sure it is for many others, including those that study such things.

There were some things that I didn't like about this lecture series, and one thing I absolutely loved. First, dislikes. Professor MacEachern is from Canada, so I expected him to say things in a "Canadian" way, and I was willing to overlook it. What bothered me about the way he spoke is that he often used words improperly and in the wrong context. (It's been awhile since I finished listening to these lectures, so I can't think of any specifics.) If you're looking up to someone as an expert, it's disappointing when they misuse grammar in such a fundamental way. Another thing that bothered me is something that has bothered me about other lectures that I've taken in the past. Namely, lack of enthusiasm. One of my art history professors in college was soooo.... boring that no one wanted to take her class. In fact, art is the thing I love most in life, and I could barely stay awake in her class. But, if you spoke to her one on one, her passion for art was clear. She lit up. I've always wondered why people who obviously love what they're talking about, and want you to love it too, can't make the subject more enjoyable. There was a point in this lecture, near the end, when Professor MacEachern got fired up. But it was too, little too late.

Now for what I did love about it. I think that experts are often too certain of themselves and what they think. They present their ideas and things that are currently known as hard, solid fact. But the truth is, facts are relative and constantly changing as we discover new and wonderful things. It's rare and refreshing to hear someone in authority say, "This is what we know right now, but it might change as we research this topic further." I really appreciated that aspect of this lecture.

Overall, I'm satisfied with this lecture series. I learned quite a few things. But, I may wait awhile to listen to another of these lectures. Even though it didn't cost as much as an actual college course, and I could listen to them in my pajamas, they are still rather expensive.
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- january


Any additional comments?

I've listened to the first third of this set, and the thought of finishing the other two downloads just seems like a chore. It's really disappointing, because I LOVE this subject matter, and was looking forward to learning more about it, and in greater depth.The first several lectures revolved around archeological theory, which is fine, except that it was repetitive, dull, and didn't really add much to explain or contextualize the data that came later. When there was explanation or context, though, that actually made things worse. For example, there was far too much respect given to the influence of Karl Marx and his ideas - one would think the body count resulting from his philosophy would be enough to convince educated people that there may be some problem with his view of the human condition (a critical part of any anthropological study), but apparently not. Not only was this offensive, but it made every other conclusion or analysis proffered by the lecturer suspect.There has been some fascinating information buried in a lot of detritus, and I'm sorry those parts weren't distilled better. It might be the format - a student in a lecture hall needing to understand key points for an exam (and for building a foundation for future study in that field) probably benefit from a lot of that repetition, but it wasn't was I was looking for. I've learned FAR more (and was entertained much more, too) about these and related subjects from books such as Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and Charles Mann's "1491" and "1493".

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- Orrin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses