People developed ways of exchanging goods long before money existed, they used the barter system. But eventually the development of commerce brought about both the development of writing for recordkeeping and the use of coins made of precious metals. Goods moved very long distances over routes that might take months with silk, tea, spices, wheat, barley, precious stones, gold and silver were all commodities sought by various civilizations. The great explorers and traders such as Marco Polo and the Silk Road are mentioned. Camel caravans and silent trading are fascinating as is the importance of salt before refrigeration to preserve food. Each section contains colorful pictures which do help with understanding. In a few of the titles whole paragraphs are repeated. At the close of the book there is a page that contains a brief glossary, index, website and books for further reading—most of which are quite current and delve into the same or related topics. This series "Life in the Ancient World" looks very attractive and something that might appeal to an early elementary or middle school reader, however upon reading each of the titles, the text tends to be written at a higher level and is often so broad in coverage with brief descriptions of major events, places and people that you do not come away with a clear understanding of the topic. Yes, there is a map and timeline in the introduction, but it is not really easy to follow either and even looking back at it when reading subsequent sections was not a big help. There are globes that show where in the world the section is set and what the time period is, but the country or countries are not labeled and unless you have a pretty good knowledge of the world it is sometimes difficult to determine. Yes, they all follow the same pattern in terms of areas of the world, but you really almost need to read a particular chapter in each one to understand more about that society rather than several sequential books. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
Gr5–8—While this series strives for an evenhanded and diverse depiction of ancient (very broadly defined) cultures, devoting so little space to each entry leads to oversimplification that borders on misinformation. The books are poorly organized, causing some important details to be neglected. In Religion, Judaism is absent entirely, though Christianity and Islam are mentioned. Africa outside of Egypt is not mentioned in Technology, and, in the other titles, several African cultures are bunched together, in contrast to the geographically small Japan, which has its own full section in each book. Australia, North America, and large areas of Asia and South America are also completely absent. It's only because the books claim they're covering every "significant culture" that these absences are worthy of complaint. A less broad, more complex look at each of the topics would serve students better.