Prehistory covers human existence before written records, i.e. most of human existence. But it also refers to the discipline through which we scrutinize prehistoric times. PREHISTORY begins by looking at the discovery of a remote human past and the subsequent dramatic growth of the study of prehistory: early archaeology; geology; Darwin’s ideas of evolution; cave paintings; fossil discoveries of human ancestors; museums and collections; radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis.
Renfrew challenges the conventional assumption of an all-important ‘human revolution’ 40,000 years ago – when Homo Sapiens first appeared in Europe – and suggests that the key developments were much later. The author’s case-studies range widely, from Orkney to the Balkans, from the Indus Valley to Peru, from Ireland to China, and provide fresh insights on landmark monuments such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, Stonehenge and the sacrificial burial pyramids at Teotihuacan in Mexico. The book closes with a fascinating chapter on the transition from Prehistory to History, on early writing systems.