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Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations

Uncover the mystery of our species' beginnings and how ensuing populations formed settlements and cultures, developed agriculture and herding, hunted, interacted, and populated the globe.
Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 142.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Basic but well presented Despite being a little bit out of date the fundamentals still hold true and they are very well presented and explained. Sometimes a little bit too quickly or superficially but the scope of the course is huge. I also enjoyed the quality of English used in his presentation. Old school perhaps but it was part of my enjoyment. Not a lot of visuals. We listen to it as a podcast for the most part.
Date published: 2023-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Fagan is The Best One of the finest courses I have ever taken. Dr. Fagan serves as a bridge between generations. He looks the part of an old school archaeologist and presents the material in a classical, straightforward manner. From this course, you will walk away with a greater understanding of our collective ancestry. Some of his conclusions (such as the contention that Sapiens and Neanderthals did not interbreed have been proven wrong. This is to be expected, given the time lapses and technological advances. However, his knowledge and passion are infectious- especially when he discusses Cro Magnon- so much so that I bought and read his book on the subject (and his other books, which like these lectures combine his factual precision with a novelist’s ability to bring the ancient world alive).
Date published: 2023-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview This is one of the best courses my husband and I have watched. The instructor provided an excellent overview with certain themes providing continuity and a way to make sense of so much information. Each lecture was structured so has to clearly lay out what he would be doing and then doing it and finally reviewing what he had done. In some cases we would have liked more detail but this course was not meant to give an in-depth analysis of any one group. The sheer number of different human groups was fascinating. And the time frame put our present day civilization within a much larger context. Civilizations have come and gone and ours too will probably not last forever.
Date published: 2023-09-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Extremely dated material Professor Fagan is an excellent lecturer who speaks clearly and is interesting to listen to, but so much has been discovered about human evolution and dispersal since 2003 that this program is chock full of what amounts to complete misinformation. I give Professor Fagan five stars but the content of the course just one. The course content is in dire need of updating but if that is not feasible, disclaimers should be placed at the end of the lectures containing incorrect information and the guide book should be updated to reflect discoveries made in the past 20 years. As it stands, I can not recommend this course.
Date published: 2023-09-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Problem with sound There is no sound for lecture one on Wondrium platform.
Date published: 2023-08-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Somewhat Dated There are several part of this lecture that are in need of updating. Specifically, when Dr. Fagan discusses DNA evidence based on mitochondrial DNA. It has since been proven that Homo sapiens and Neandertals share portions of their genome. Also the dates and sources of the Polynesian dispersals has changed since 2003.
Date published: 2023-07-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs update Prof. Fagan repeatedly mentions there was no biological interaction between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. Yet DNA data has clearly established in 2019 modern human genome outside Africa contains anywhere from 1 to 3.5% Neanderthal DNA. In some cases this DNA has benefited us while in others it has led to disease susceptibility.He says earliest Homo Sapien skeleton finds are 150 to 200K years old. Finds in Morocco (Jebel Irhud)have pushed this back to 300K years. Maybe the lectures should be updated based on recent ancient DNA research. Otherwise the lectures convey incorrect facts and conclusions.
Date published: 2023-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Human Prehistory I am enjoying this course very much. Amazing that there is so much to know about man’s early history. Professor Fagan. Is easy to understand. Has a nice preview of his lecture followed by summary at each lecture end. From homo erectus to Homo sapiens sapiens with their locations around the world. My wife and I have visited Olduvai Gorge tying this course to my life’s travels.
Date published: 2022-09-03
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Overview

Where do we come from? How did our ancestors settle this planet? How did the great historic civilizations of the world develop? How does a past so shadowy that it has to be painstakingly reconstructed from fragmentary, largely unwritten records nonetheless make us who and what we are? This broad survey course begins with the origins of the earliest evolving humans more than 2.5 million years ago and explores how the ensuing populations formed settlements and cultures, developed agriculture and herding, interacted, and populated the globe.

About

Brian M. Fagan

Few people are aware of the remarkable scope of archaeology, which provides remarkable insights into ancient societies. Today's archaeology, with its discovery, hi-tech science, and laboratory work gives us a better understanding of what is it to be human.

INSTITUTION

University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Brian M. Fagan is Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Born in England, Dr. Fagan earned his BA, MA, and PhD in Archaeology and Anthropology from Pembroke College, Cambridge University. Professor Fagan's excavations in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) from 1959 to 1965 earned him recognition as a pioneer of multidisciplinary African history. He has served as Director of the Bantu Studies Project of the British Institute for Eastern Africa, Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana, and Visiting Professor at Whittier College and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Professor Fagan is the recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His other awards include the Public Service Award of the Society of Professional Archaeologists and the Public Education Award of the Society for American Archaeology. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1973. Dr. Fagan's many books include, People of the Earth and In the Beginning, two widely used university and college textbooks in archaeology and prehistory. His other works include; The Rape of the Nile, The Adventure of Archaeology, and The Little Ice Age. He also edited The Oxford Companion to Archaeology.

By This Professor

Introducing Human Prehistory

01: Introducing Human Prehistory

The themes of the course include emerging human biological and cultural diversity as well as our similarities, the importance of climatic and environmental change, and the importance of seeing prehistory as a tale of people and their beliefs, not just archaeological sites.

31 min
In the Beginning

02: In the Beginning

Evidence of human origins dates from between 6 million and 3 million years ago. What anatomical and behavioral changes occurred among hominids across this vast expanse of time? What fossil forms define the earliest stages of human evolution?

29 min
Our Earliest Ancestors

03: Our Earliest Ancestors

The earliest tool-making hominids appeared between 3 million and 2 million years ago. Evidence from Louis and Mary Leakey's excavations at the famous Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania suggests that "Homo habilis," the first toolmaker, used these stone implements as aids in scavenging and foraging.

30 min
The First Human Diaspora

04: The First Human Diaspora

Until about 730,000 years ago, world climate seems to have been fairly stable. Since then, climate shifts including Ice Ages have played a major role in human biological and cultural evolution, as we can see by considering theories of how humans first moved from Africa to Asia.

28 min
The First Europeans

05: The First Europeans

Europe seems to have been colonized only about 800,000 years ago—the dating is controversial. Archaeological research indicates people who lived a flexible and highly mobile life, but with cognitive and linguistic abilities that seem no match for those of modern humans.

30 min
The Neanderthals

06: The Neanderthals

This lecture clears away many of the misleading stereotypes about these nimble, efficient hunters who used simple but versatile tools in order to adapt impressively to the harsh climate of late Ice Age Europe and Eurasia.

30 min
The Origins of

07: The Origins of "Homo sapiens sapiens"

You learn the compelling evidence from molecular biology that shows the origins of "Homo sapiens sapiens," modern humans, lie in tropical Africa more than 100,000 years ago.

30 min
The Great Diaspora

08: The Great Diaspora

The spread of modern humans from Africa into other parts of the world is one of the great dramas of prehistory. Why did it occur, and how did the Sahara Desert play a critical role in it?

30 min
The World of the Cro-Magnons

09: The World of the Cro-Magnons

The modern humans whom we call Cro-Magnons began to settle Europe 45,000 years ago. What was their crucial advantage over Neanderthals and other more archaic people? How did the Cro-Magnons bring together the material and spiritual worlds in ways never before seen?

30 min
Artists and Mammoth Hunters

10: Artists and Mammoth Hunters

What are the major features of Cro-Magnon mobile and cave art? How can we evaluate the various theories that have been put forward to explain what it means? How did the unique big-game hunting societies of the late Ice Age cope with their exceptionally harsh environment?

30 min
The First Americans

11: The First Americans

How and when the Americas were first settled is one of the most controversial questions in the entire field of prehistory. This talk outlines the basic issues and describes the two major competing hypotheses and the relevant evidence.

30 min
The Paleo-Indians and Afterward

12: The Paleo-Indians and Afterward

Hunter-gatherer societies began to flourish in North America about 14,000 years ago. They differed across regions, from the more densely peopled Eastern woodlands to the plains and the drier West, but all had elaborate beliefs reflected in art, burial customs, and ceremonial objects.

31 min
After the Ice Age

13: After the Ice Age

What vast climatic changes followed the end of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago? How did a huge glacial-meltwater release in Canada affect the climate thousands of miles away in the Near East so profoundly that it may have sparked the development of agriculture?

30 min
The First Farmers

14: The First Farmers

What do excavations of early farming settlements at Abu Hureyra, Syria, and Jericho, Jordan, tell us about how the change from hunting and collecting to herding and farming took place?

30 min
Why Farming?

15: Why Farming?

What are the leading theories about the beginnings of agriculture? Why is it the case that the consequences of agriculture are more interesting than its origins? How do the remains of early farming societies in southwestern Asia and the Nile Valley help us to trace these effects?

30 min
The First European Farmers

16: The First European Farmers

Europe was a sparsely inhabited place until farmers began to spread rapidly across it from southeast to northwest beginning in about 7,000 B.C. Could the sudden formation of the Black Sea by the rising waters of the Mediterranean have been the trigger for this diffusion?

31 min
Farming in Asia and Settling the Pacific

17: Farming in Asia and Settling the Pacific

Rice has been grown in the Yangtze Valley of southern China since before 7,000 B.C., with millet farming in the Huangho Valley of the north about a millennium behind. But the many islands lying far off Asia could not be settled until root crops like taro and yams were domesticated.

30 min
The Story of Maize

18: The Story of Maize

The tale of how researchers traced domestic corn or maize to its wild Mesoamerican ancestor (a grass called teosinte) is one of the great detective stories in prehistory. Spreading both north and south, the farming of maize and associated crops such as beans would transform the landscape of both Americas.

30 min
The Origins of States and Civilization

19: The Origins of States and Civilization

The world's first civilizations appeared in southwest Asia about 5,000 years ago. What makes a "civilization," and what do all preindustrial civilizations have in common? What are the theories accounting for civilizations' expansions?

30 min
Sumerian Civilization

20: Sumerian Civilization

Evolving out of innovative farming societies that used irrigation to grow food between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the small, competing city-states of Sumer were engaging in long-distance trade by 4000 B.C. and then became parts of a drive to form much larger empires.

30 min
Ancient Egyptian Civilization to the Old Kingdom

21: Ancient Egyptian Civilization to the Old Kingdom

The long, fertile, green ribbon of the Nile Valley is the setting for this most famous and flamboyant of ancient civilizations. Beginning, as had Sumer, in a series of smaller kingdoms along the river, Egypt's pyramid-building "Old Kingdom" flourished till 2180 B.C.

30 min
Ancient Egypt—Middle and New Kingdoms

22: Ancient Egypt—Middle and New Kingdoms

How did Mentuhotep, the politically gifted ruler who restored the Middle Kingdom, redefine his own role as pharaoh in order to achieve this? How did the New Kingdom of Ramses II and company redefine it as Egyptian military and imperial power grew?

30 min
The Minoan Civilization of Crete

23: The Minoan Civilization of Crete

In journeying north across the eastern Mediterranean from Egypt, we come across the Minoan civilization of Crete, whose site was the Palace of Minos at Knossos on that island. What made the religious beliefs at the heart of Minoan civilization so different from those found in other early states?

30 min
The Eastern Mediterranean World

24: The Eastern Mediterranean World

Among the high points of this talk is the discussion of the remarkable Uluburun shipwreck, an amazing 1984 find off the coast of Turkey that contains a rich cargo drawn from nine regions and gives us a superb window on the burgeoning world of international trade c. 1300 B.C.

31 min
The Harappan Civilization of South Asia

25: The Harappan Civilization of South Asia

This civilization rose in the Indus Valley of what is now Pakistan before 2500 B.C. In a way, it was a result of the rise of cities in Mesopotamia because trade with that area seems to have stimulated the rise of cities along the Indus. Were Harappan religious beliefs the ancestors of Hinduism?

30 min
South and Southeast Asia

26: South and Southeast Asia

Starting with the Harappan collapse (c. 1700 B.C.), we enter the Vedic period, when far-reaching cultural, religious, and technological changes swept South Asia, culminating in the discovery of the monsoon wind cycle (c. 100 B.C.), which opened the door to travel and trade across the Indian Ocean and beyond.

30 min
Africa—A World of Interconnectedness

27: Africa—A World of Interconnectedness

Ranging over sites on the continent from the caravan routes of Sudan to the great cattle-raising kingdoms of the south-central plateau around Zimbabwe, this talk shows how Africa played a major role in the Indian Ocean world during the first millennium A.D.

30 min
The Origins of Chinese Civilization

28: The Origins of Chinese Civilization

Here we explore the increasingly complex Longshanoid cultures that grew up over a wide swath of northern China after 3000 B.C. What do we know about the three early dynasties—Xia, Shang, and Zhou—and the realms over which they presided?

30 min
China—Zhou to the Han

29: China—Zhou to the Han

The Western and Eastern Zhou periods were times of endemic warfare until Emperor Qin Shihuangdi unified China in 221 B.C. The Han Dynasty brought China into contact with the West via the Silk Road, and with India by connecting to the ancient monsoon-wind routes of Southeast Asia.

30 min
Southeast Asian Civilizations

30: Southeast Asian Civilizations

While these civilizations possess indigenous roots, it is also true that China and India had a large impact on them. The famous sites of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom give us insight on the uniquely centripetal Khmer civilization and its notions of divine kingship.

30 min
Pueblos and Moundbuilders in North America

31: Pueblos and Moundbuilders in North America

With this talk we change hemispheres to examine the chiefdoms and states of the Americas before Columbus. Topics include the Pueblo sites of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, the moundbuilders of the Eastern woodlands, and the great chiefdoms of the Mississippian tradition.

30 min
Ancient Maya Civilization

32: Ancient Maya Civilization

We explore the rise and decline of the Maya, who ran the greatest lowland civilization of pre-Columbian times, analyze their origins, study their central institutions such as kingship, describe key Maya sites such as Nakbe and El Mirador, and examine the reasons for their collapse c. A.D. 900.

31 min
Highland Mesoamerican Civilization

33: Highland Mesoamerican Civilization

Like the lowlands, the highlands of Mesoamerica were also a cradle of civilizations beginning around the first millennium B.C. The last and most famous was that of the Aztecs, who rose from obscurity to become masters of Mesoamerica in just two dizzying centuries, only to fall themselves before a tiny band of Spanish conquistadors.

30 min
The Origins of Andean Civilization

34: The Origins of Andean Civilization

This civilization developed between two poles: one on Peru's North Coast, the other in the south-central Andes. Around the former grew up the remarkable Moche state (c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 600), which provides a case study of how a civilization can be overcome by natural disasters.

30 min
The Inka and Their Predecessors

35: The Inka and Their Predecessors

The Inka were imperial conquerors who took over smaller kingdoms in both the Andean highlands and Peru's north coast sometime after A.D. 1000. Aside from their passion for organization, what institutions fueled the Inkas' endless conquests? And how did a tiny band of Spanish adventurers seize this vast empire so quickly in 1532?

30 min
Epilogue

36: Epilogue

Here you cast a backward glance over the four main chapters of human prehistory—the archaic world, the appearance and spread of modern humans, food production, and the development of states. Why does knowledge of this matter in today's world? How does it strengthen our understanding of the human condition?

31 min