"Until very recently, we had no detailed record of climate changes during the Holocene. Now we do, and Brian Fagan shows us how climate functioned as what historian Paul Kennedy described as one of the "deeper transformations" of history - a more important factor than we have heretofore understood." "In The Long Summer, Fagan shows how a thousand-year chill caused by the sudden shutting off of the Gulf Stream led people in the Near East to abandon hunting and gathering to take up the cultivation of plant foods; how the catastrophic flood that created the Black Sea drove settlers deep into Europe; how a subsequent warming and drying of the Sahara forced its cattle-herding peoples to take up a less hazardous life along the banks of the Nile; how the Roman Empire extended north in Gaul only as far - and for as long - as the climate allowed sustained cereal farming; and how a period of increased rainfall in East Africa in the sixth century spread rat populations and the bubonic plague throughout the Mediterranean, and how this in turn spurred massive migrations that helped shape modern Europe and the Middle East." "The Long Summer illuminates for the first time the centuries-long pattern of human adaptation to the demands and challenges of an ever-changing climate - demands and challenges that are still with us today."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Unfortunately Brian Fagan is just not a very compelling writer. I look forward to seeing the same material covered by a better author.
In terms of substance, I was
The most interesting thesis, I thought, was that claim that in Israel we have Kerbarans (nomadic hunter gatherers, eat mainly animals, 13000BC), followed by Natufians (sedentary hunter gatherers, eat mainly plants, 11000BC), who suffer severe problems of drought caused by the Younger Dryas, which leads to agriculture.
The interesting point is that, at this stage, we now have studies of female bones showing stresses caused by hours of daily repetitive work grinding and pounding and whatever to convert agricultural crops into food. Fagan strongly implies that this was a univeral story, that women in pre-agricultural societies do not show these stresses, and those in post-agricultural societies do. I'd like to have seen a lot more discussion of this point from a world-wide perspective. Did the same thing occur when agriculture began in India, China, the Americas, Africa, New Guinea? And was it always women who were saddled with this role? Why not, eg, male and female slaves? And how long did this last? Do we still see these sorts of long term stresses in, eg, bronze age societies?
it was interesting and informative and clearly written but more and more i find myself lost in a morass of extraneous words and narrative when reading non-fiction. this is just my own radical sensibility and reflects nothing upon this author. he did a fine job in a
however, i have come to think that informative books such as this need more visual elements, more concise construction of information, and less speaking to the reader across the page.
a sampling of things i learned:
>mesopotamia and the fertile crescent and the levant all were productive because of glacial melt waters and the warming period after the ice age
>temperatures were much more mild in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area during the ice age and just after- duh, you might say but it simply never occurred to me to connect those dots
>in fact, forests of oak and beech and pistachio and birch dominated the landscape in areas that are deserts now
>the collapse of huge ice sheets in north america affected the global climate by alternately stopping then restarting the gulf stream and atlantic conveyor current
if you like understanding the origins of human society, read this book. it changed the way i view ancient Egypt and the hyperborean age. they are lush green now rather than rocky, dusty brown.