In this book, the author compares the rise of civilization in the Old and New Worlds – looking at which factors drove them in different directions. It’s an interesting book, but also incredibly dense. It took me a while to get through it.
If you’ve read up on ancient history, there’s probably nothing truly new here, but it’s interesting to see how the author brings it together. For instance, I had never really thought about how the weather of the Americas is so much more extreme in a lot of ways than Europe and Asia. I live with tornados and hurricanes being a possibility (even though remote where I am), and it just didn’t occur to me to think about what that would mean for ancient people that didn’t understand why those things were happening (volcanoes can be included with the extreme weather events for this train of thought).
Another interesting point was a distinction in the uses of writing. One of the scholars quoted makes the case that the Maya in Central America were not a literate people. They had writing, but it was used for propaganda – not in the ways it was used in the Old World that gave rise to the great writings that we continue to refer back to. Again, something I realistically knew about, but just hadn’t thought about.
One thing I didn’t like – where’s Africa? I’m assuming it wasn’t as rich in the literature he was reviewing, but it should be addressed – it is the cradle of humanity after all.