The past, Peter Watson argues in this magnificent history of sixteen and a half millenia, is a whole series of foreign countries - and explaining the differences between them helps accounts for just about everything we take for granted in the here and now...Impossible, of course, to summarise this massive book in a small review. Sufficient, perhaps, to say that the year's first necessary read is here. -- Christopher Bray WORD MAGAZINE In drawing together evidence from complex strands of archaeology, climatology, genetics and religious symbolism, Watson is compulsively speculative. -- Peter Forbes THE INDEPENDENT Synthesizers like Watson play a valuable role in disseminating and linking up specialist research findings -- Peter Coates TLS 20120608 An ingenious work about the course of human history...The author seems to know everything about his subject and to hold an opinion on every issue, which he enthusiastically passes on...fascinating KIRKUS REVIEWS
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From the Back Cover
Exploring the development of humankindbetween the Old World and the New—from15,000 BC to AD 1500—the acclaimed authorof Ideas and The German Genius offers agroundbreaking new understandingof human history.
Why did Asia and Europe develop far earlierthan the Americas? What were thefactors that accelerated—or impeded—development? How did the experiences of OldWorld inhabitants differ from their New Worldcounterparts—and what factors influenced thosedifferences?
In this fascinating and erudite history, PeterWatson ponders these questions central to thehuman story. By 15,000 BC, humans had migratedfrom northeastern Asia across the frozen Beringland bridge to the Americas. When the worldwarmed up and the last Ice Age came to an end,the Bering Strait refilled with water, dividingAmerica from Eurasia. This division—with twogreat populations on Earth, each unaware of theother—continued until Christopher Columbusvoyaged to the New World in the fifteenth century.
The Great Divide compares the developmentof humankind in the Old World and the Newbetween 15,000 BC and AD 1500. Watson identifiesthree major differences between the twoworlds—climate, domesticable mammals, andhallucinogenic plants—that combined to producevery different trajectories of civilization in thetwo hemispheres. Combining the most up-to-dateknowledge in archaeology, anthropology, geology,meteorology, cosmology, and mythology, thisunprecedented, masterful study offers uniquelyrevealing insight into what it means to be human.