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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
Brian Fagan is one of my favorite authors. I was first introduced to his books in college. They were the text books in the prehistory courses I took for my major in archeology. More recently, he has been writing about the effects of climate change on human history. He has a talent for writing about complex subjects like climate change so that they are comprehensible...
Published on April 7, 2010 by OldRoses

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100 of 107 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's new with the old?
In Cro-Magnon, Brian Fagan delivers the current state-of-knowledge regarding our stone-age selves and summarizes archeological evidence to date. As someone with a casual interest the subject, I might read up on it every 10 years or so; watching a handful of documentaries in the meantime. Fagan collects the various wealth of scientific knowledge, and distills it for mass...
Published on April 3, 2010 by J. Vitous


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Grab bag of facts, assumptions, and conjecture, April 12, 2014
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Assemble a group of statements on individual strips of paper then put them in a hat. Now mix thoroughly. As you pull statements from the hat, write them down. The statements individually are interesting and informative. The structure is not intelligible. And that is how I would describe this book.
The book needs an editor to arrange the statements in a meaningful order in order to present a cohesive body of knowledge. Furthermore, the illustrations are rendered so small that they can not be understood. Having read numerous books by Brian Fagan I know this failing is an anomaly rather than an insulting review of his ability.
Now as for the individual statements, the book is a fascinating snapshot of what was thought when the book was written. The ideas have continued to evolve replacing or invalidating some of the statements. Thus the statements are not actually facts but conjecture based on continuing analysis. That is not a negative statement but reflects the nature of the work. The reader is inclined to discount the conflicting, irrational assertions but they truly capture the conflicting, irrational results presented by the research findings. What are the facts? Who is correct? What should we accept? All are valid questions which should be remembered when reading this book. Perhaps a future work will answer the questions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great topic, repetitive discussion. B- overall., July 31, 2013
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This review is from: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (Paperback)
This book has a wonderful topic and interesting illustrations.The author makes up good stories about what might have happened, and I think that a smart child or teen ager would be captivated by the author's story telling. As it is though, and as I am an adult, I just can't finish the book; it is way too repetitive and speculative. For instance, he author likes to repeat himself endlessly about "tool kits" out of stone flakes. This is very interesting - the first time. Then I begin to skip ahead. And constantly describing the Neanderthals as "quiet" people is quite a leap of imagination. They might have been boisterous for all we know. Also, the drawings are mislabeled and confusing. And what is a "schist"? Maybe I read over that, but it's not in the index. Today I just decided to not finish the book after all.

This could have been a really great book. I'll give it a B-.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book., July 20, 2011
By 
Atheen "Atheen" (Mpls, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (Paperback)
"Cro-Magnon" is an interesting book by Brian Fagan, whose primary approach to archaeology and pre-history is generally speaking that of the paleoclimatologist. Here, though he again examines the effects of extreme climate on human populations, he is primarily interested in the question of Neanderthal and early Sapiens and their cultural responses to the environment, especially in respect to the extinction of the former and the spread of the latter. He paints a rather more different picture of the two than the usual, since he almost sees the Neanderthal as simply moving away from extreme climate while the Cro-Magnon embraces it. I'm not certain I agree with that, since the earlier species spread and flourished for several thousands of years in a climate of widely swinging temperature domains before the arrival of Cro-Magnon and seemed to exhibit a suite of cultural traits that enhanced that survival.

Even though the presence of two populations of humans placing demands on limited resources was bound to produce a differential in survival, I'm more inclined to agree with Clive Finlayson (The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived) who suggests that chance played a greater part in the process. Both Dr. Fagan and Dr. Finlayson note that both types of human ended up disbursed among various residual domains of habitability during climatic downturns, some with less interconnectivity than others. Dr. Finlayson, however, places a greater emphasises on the resulting isolation and its pronounced effect on genetic variability and overall decline in species viability. The cul-de-sac into which Neanderthals found themselves during the last glacial maximum may simply have reduced a stressed breeding population beyond its capacity to survive, with or without the pressures of a rival species in the environment.

Observations on evolutionary tracks and other phenomena, where events of different magnitudes are possible and can have major effects on outcomes, have been made by a number of researchers in other fields under the rubrics of "self organizing criticality" (Stuart Kaufman and the Sante Fe Institute, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution and Per Bak (how nature works: the science of self-organized criticality) and "complexity or ubiquity theory" (Mark Buchanan (Used & New from: $7.00 Ubiquity: The Science of History . . . or Why the World Is Simpler Than We Think]) and [[ASIN:0609809989 Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen) and the resulting concepts suggest that chance occurrences can indeed have exactly this type of effect on natural systems, including species survival. When it comes down to which species made it through to modern times, it may have been as much a matter of "shear dumb luck" as it was of increased cultural complexity and changes in mental outlook. In fact even our understanding of the differences and similarities which may have existed between the cultures and mental realities of the two populations is as much the outcome of a differential in chance survival of artifactual remains as it is of actual quantifiable differences in the two species of human.

Our sense of superiority, not only to extinct species of our own genus but to our existing distant cousins the great apes, may only be an illusion in the long run of things. I think it's very telling that most genera have more than one species, and that genera that don't are usually those that have undergone or are undergoing serious stress of some kind. Our uniqueness as a species in the world may not be such a good sign.
Nature doesn't care about our ego or our technological successes; it only cares about numbers and sustainability. Our short run of success may ultimately be leading to our final demise as our numbers bring pressure to bear on sustainability and lead to collapse.

Interesting book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pre-History of Early Modern Humans, June 28, 2010
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I have read a number of books by this author and I would classify this as one of his better ones. He starts by discussing the Neanderthals and how they differed from the eventual newcomers: the early modern humans - homo sapiens - also known as Cro-Magnons. He then recounts the evolution of the latter, our ancient ancestors, mainly during the millennia of the last glaciation and a bit later. In so doing, he addresses many important issues in their evolution, including: their travels and migrations, possible interactions with the Neanderthals, their social lives, possible spiritual thought, their diet, the evolution of their weaponry, their hunting tactics, and more, all this before a backdrop of changing climate, changing landscape and changing flora and fauna.

The prose is clear, friendly, very authoritative, detailed and quite accessible. From my perspective, I would not call this book a page-turner but there are several engaging passages amidst the many lengthy descriptions of the Cro-Magnons' lives and times. One cannot read this work without coming back much better informed about these ancient peoples.

With plenty of useful diagrams, several informative sidebars and sixteen colour plates, this book should appeal to anyone with an interest in our early human ancestors - in particular, what we do know about them, what we can guess and what we can never know. Stone Age archaeology enthusiasts should also find this book particularly fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long Winded Ramble Through Early Human History, January 26, 2013
By 
R. Campbell "Ray Campbell" (Glastonbury, CT, United States) - See all my reviews
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Disappointing. Carbon dating as first used was less accurate than today's methods. Cro Magnon man appears in Africa around 70,000 years ago and coexisted with Neanderthals until the end of the last great ice age when Cro Magnon pushed them out and into extinction. Cro Magnons hunted, gathered, sewed clothing out of animal skins and fur, and painted cave walls - it was fun! The really impressive thing is that this went on over tens of thousands of years. I had imagined this book might spread new light on what changed to transition into modern times. What started the agricultural revolution and the establishment of communities of modern man. While Fagan points to the ebb and flow of climatic changes, there is no revelation here. This is a long winded ramble through early human history.

Fagan clarifies many issues and gives interesting details, but he could have done it in half the time by saying "this was a pattern that we see throughout..." Unfortunately, Fagan needs to repeat the same things about Cro-Magnon man in each place they have been found while emphasizing that we can never know for sure about an alarming amount of conjecture. He does illustrate patterns and explains how archeologists know, but he also creates speculative scenarios to illustrate how things might have been which are just silly. I'll paraphrase: Imagine, a stream. A father looks lovingly at his child. The child is confused. "What is that giant wooly mammoth daddy?" The father fits an arrow, he forgot his sharpened throwing sticks. "Will we eat tonight?" the boy says. The father says "yes - Mommy will be busy cooking"... I know Fagan was trying to make a story and help us imagine scenes that were likely, but it made the book seem speculative rather than scientific.

Again, some interesting insight, but did I mention it was repetitive?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Favorite Author, But..., November 8, 2012
By 
Ellen Shipley (Santa Clarita, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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Brian Fagan is one of my favorite writers, so I was very pleased to find this book available for my kindle. But I am beyond disappointed that there are no operative links for all the plates that are teased in the text. Must I buy a hardcopy of this book just to get the full text?

I would not have willingly bought an abridged book. When will this be fixed in the kindle version?

Truth in advertising, people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars where are the color plates?, October 21, 2012
By 
marsaluna (Pittsburgh, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This was quite interesting and readable and a special bargain at $2.99!  
But where the heck are the color plates that were referred to throughout the book? For some reason, they didn‘t make it into the Kindle edition! It would have been nice to actually see the lion man carving, the cave of Altamira, etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are You the Product of Cro-Mangnons and Neanderthals Getting Together and Having a Good Time?, January 18, 2011
One of the most impressive things about history is that it is never static; you could take one event that is well documented, then come back to it a decade later and find the details and actions and reactions on that event to be totally different. One area where the knowledge and thoughts and ideas of what the period was like that is constantly changing is prehistory; our ancestors who lived before any real form of the written word was invented, other than cave paintings. This is approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, when the last ice age came to a close, and the melting pot that was ancestral humanity - Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals (and perhaps in the future anthropologists and archaeologists will discover another tangent of hominids) - came to a final decision through the evolutionary step of Homo sapiens sapiens.

Brian Fagan is the professor emeritus in anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of The Great Warming, The Little Ice Age, and The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. In Cro-Magnon, Fagan brings readers up to date with all the latest knowledge and evidence on the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals. The common perception is that with the end of the ice age, there was the big migration of Cro-Magnons into what would eventually become Europe, as they existed with the Neanderthals, not integrating and living together, but overpowering and superseding them, eventually rendering the Neanderthals extinct. Fagan explores the history of the Neanderthals, discussing and developing ideas and theories of when they migrated into Europe and spread around and how it was quite possible there was coexistence between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, with exchanges in trade, habits, tool making, and perhaps even histories. Fagan posits that Neanderthals may not have died out, but become integrated with Cro-Magnons.

Fagan then launches into the main part of the book with the Cro-Magnons, and the general labels that are applied to the different periods and developments of Cro-Magnons: Mousterian, Châtelperronian, Aurignancian, Gravettian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian, exploring each label and what makes it individual. At the end of the book the reader is left understanding a lot more about our ancestors, and perhaps coming to the realization that the Neanderthals, and certainly the Cro-Magnons were a lot more intelligent, creative and developed than the idea of the fur-covered man with the spear hunting the woolly mammoth, while the fur-covered woman remains in the cave with the children, tending to the fire. One can't help but wonder how our knowledge and perceptions of these people may change in ten years time, especially since there is so much more to be learned and discovered; the cave paintings of Grotte de Chauvet, Niaux and Lascaux are merely the tip of the ice berg.

Originally written on September 16 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

Go to BookBanter ([...] for over five hundred reviews and over forty exclusive author interviews, and more.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tool kits, October 11, 2010
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Brian Fagan begins his investigation of Ice Age peoples with the Neanderthals, whom he says were extant in Europe for 200,000 years before the Cro-Magnons pushed them out.

Most of Fagan's book discusses various took kits. There just isn't much else left, other than cave art and reindeer bones. The Neanderthals never advance beyond their long spears. They never developed a spear thrower and had to sneak up on their prey, going so far as to jump on the backs of the larger animals to spear them in conjunction with a fellow hunter. Fagan also maintains the Neanderthals were much more adept than the cartoonists portray them. He's also positive the Cro-Magnons and their cousins did not mate (although recent scientific evidence seems to indicate they did).

By 70,000 years ago the Neanderthals were gone. Fagan doesn't know whether the Cro-Magnons exterminated them or they simply couldn't compete. He's pretty sure it wasn't the Ice Age that did it, since they'd dealt with it successfully before.

Fagan points to four different eras of Cro-Magnon development based on their tool kits: the Aurignacians, The Gravettians, The Solutreans, and the Magdalenians. According to Fagan, they were all really "thin on the ground," and their era came to an end (if it ever really did) when the ice receded, population increased, and people took up farming. The difference between the four cultures seems to be increasingly smaller spear heads and the use of bone and reindeer horns as projectiles. He's also almost certain the Magdalenians had the bow and arrow. Fagan talks extensively about the Cro-Magnon Swiss Army knife, a core rock that stone knappers carried to chip off various weapons and tools. They could replace a broken spear tip in seconds. He also discusses hunting strategies. The Cro-Magnons tried to mire their prey in the mud or catch them crossing a stream, or if it was horses they were hunting, drive them into box canyons and slaughter them there. They also acquired much of the food they needed for the long Ice Age winters during salmon runs which they were adept at spearing.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book for me, was the discovery of a 26,000-year-old grave containing a man and two young men buried head-to-head. The Sungir people were discovered in Northern Russia. They wore necklaces, brooches and bracelets with over 13,000 mammoth ivory beads on strings. The older man wore a beaded cap and what looked to be a richly decorated tunic. Tests indicate that each bead would have required at least an hour to make, an investment of 3,000 man hours in the older man's jewelry. As I said earlier the Cro-Magnons were "thin on the ground," which meant they traveled as small bands, but these "riches" seem to imply a hierarchal society, only 20,000 years after our ancestors left Africa.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our "Natural State" Revealed in Cro-Magnon Life, September 18, 2012
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We are rapidly discovering how our first Homo sapiens ancestors lived along-side their declining Neanderthal neighbors. New dating procedures gives us an improving timeline and so much can be inferred from discoveries about our early existence from the small band of African immigrants to Europe to see how our brains develop abstract thinking that results in music, art, and spiritual awareness along with technological innovation. Language for communication became the survival capability that made us cooperative beings. Readable and fascinating, this book informs and holds one's attention.
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Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans
Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans by Brian M. Fagan (Paperback - May 10, 2011)
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