The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

by Peter Watson


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The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New by Peter Watson

Peter Watson, the acclaimed author of Ideas and The German Genius, offers a groundbreaking new exploration of the progress of human history. Watson’s The Great Divide compares and contrasts the development of humankind between the “Old World” and the “New”—between 15,000 B.C. and 1,500 A.D—and, like Jarod Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Watson’s remarkable book offers a fascinating, all-encompassing, highly readable overview of how human civilization has grown and expanded. Combining the most up-to-date findings in archaeology, anthropology, geology, meteorology, cosmology and mythology, this unprecedented, masterful study offers uniquely revealing insights into what it means to be human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061672453
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 640
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Peter Watson has written for the New York Times, The Observer, The Spectator, and numerous other publications. He is the author of Ideas, War on the Mind, Wisdom and Strength, The Caravaggio Conspiracy, and other books. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

Author's Note: The Aztecs 'as evil as Nazis' vii

Maps xi

Introduction: 15000 BC-AD 1500: A Unique Period in Human History xxi

Part 1 How the First Americans Differed from Old World Peoples

1 From Africa to Alaska: The Great Journey as Revealed in the Genes, Language and the Stones 3

2 From Africa to Alaska: The Disasters of Deep Time as Revealed by Myths, Religion and the Rocks 23

3 Siberia and the Sources of Shamanism 48

4 Into a Land Without People 56

Part 2 How Nature Differs in the Old World and the New

5 Rings of Fire and Thermal Trumpets 81

6 Roots v. Seeds and the Anomalous Distribution of Domesticable Mammals 105

7 Fatherhood, Fertility, Farming: 'The Fall' 116

8 Ploughing, Driving, Milking and Riding - four things that never happened in the New World 139

9 Catastrophe and the (All-Important) Origins of Sacrifice 149

10 From Narcotics to Alcohol 165

11 Maize: What People Are Made Of 180

12 The Psychoactive Rainforest and the Anomalous Distribution of Hallucinogens 193

13 Houses of Smoke, Coca and Chocolate 213

14 Wild: the Jaguar, the Bison, the Salmon 226

Part 3 Why Human Nature Evolved Differently in the Old World and the New

15 Eridu and Aspero: the First Cities Seven and a Half Thousand Miles Apart 249

16 The Steppes, War and 'a new anthropological type' 271

17 The Day of the Jaguar 300

18 The Origins of Monotheism and the End of Sacrifice in the Old World 324

19 The Invention of Democracy, the Alphabet, Money and the Greek Concept of Nature 358

20 Shaman-Kings, World Trees and Vision Serpents 381

21 Bloodletting, Human Sacrifice, Pain and Potlatch 413

22 Monasteries and Mandarins, Muslims and Mongols 444

23 The Feathered Serpent, the Fifth Sun and the Four Suyus 467

Conclusion: The Shaman and the Shepherd: The Great Divide 499

Appendix 1 The (Never-Ending) Dispute of the New World 523

Appendix 2 (Available online): From 100,000 kin groups to 190 Sovereign States: Some Patterns in Cultural Evolution 547

Notes and References 549

Sources for Figures 585

Index 587

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