11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2014
This is a truly extraordinary book -- very long and packed (sometimes densely) with information, but always clearly and even vividly written. The author presents not just information, but differing interpretations, usually (but not always) with his own conclusions, and he is able to maintain long-range chronological connections at the same time that he recounts what was happening in various locations at given moments. The illustrations (pictures of artifacts, maps) are beautiful, and very well integrated with the prose narrative. One of the upshots is that the book makes archeology seem to be a hugely exciting field. I've been reading the book slowly, over a period of several weeks, and I'll be sorry to finish it. But it's a keeper.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2014
This work by Cyprian Broodbank is a large-scale synthesis on the archaeological and historical origins of the Mediterranean, one of the first full-scale analyses to take into account new archaeological and historical evidence. As such it deserves to be read on it's merits. Since I am only partly through it I cannot comment completely on the entire book. This comment is rather intended to speak to those who may have been put off by online reviews of the work that called it 'unreadable'. The author writes from several a perspectives, (archaeological, historical, literary) so the reader should expect that the evidence-as well as as the type and style of argument- will be different than say a regular history of the Mediterranean that does not have such a broad and long duration of time. It may tax readers for this reason- I would argue that is what makes it exhilarating to read. The work is complex, argued over a several different historical periods and utilizing various types of evidence. It is also important to note that much of the evidence that Broodbank presents, although available to experts, has not been available to wider audiences in good formats. The writing is clear, understandable, and the argument coherent. The plates and photographs are an outstanding complement to the text, and really are essential for the argument.
I would simply say that the work won the Wolfson Prize for excellence in history writing and research, and that despite what some skeptics may think this is no mean feat- the Wolfson Prize being given annually for excellence in research and writing. It is a long work, argued over several different time periods and using several types of historical evidence. The writer (to me) is never boring. This is an example of what large-scale works of historical research and synthesis look like, and to they really don't come around that often. It is well-worth the time and attention of students of history. The plates and photographs are outstanding and complement the argument nicely. For those who wish to follow further and have access to a good library or databases, Broodbank has written some outstanding articles on the archaeology of Crete.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2014
This is a large book in more ways than one: it covers a lot of time, from before the Ice Age to 500BC ( the Axial Age ?); it's over 600 pages long; and it weighs over 4 pounds. Not bedside reading!
It tries to tell the ¨history¨, mainly based on the most recent archaeological findings and their interpretations, of the gradual settlement and use of the Mediterranean Sea and its surrounding landmass towards its progressive integration as one area ( a point Broodbank does not reach, as it happened under Rome). It tries to abandon the traditional historical progression of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Levant, Greece and Rome, w/o really succeeding, by taking a series of sequential snapshots of the total Mediterranean basin. Due to the amount and nature of the evidence, Egypt and Mesopotamia continue to play predominant roles, but Broodbank gives much greater weight to the Levant than is usual. He takes a fresh look at the importance of the Delta of the Nile , its inhabitants and their historical role. The Peoples of the Seas and the debacle of the Mycenaean and Hittite civilization get short shrift and remains a mystery. The Phoenicians, Carthage and Sardinia get bigger roles. Repeatedly the role of the Levant and its trading and or coastal cities is emphasized. He avoids getting involved in ethnicity and languages. He emphasized how early trading in the Mediterranean started, first with obsidian and gradually with other goods, including slaves.
On the minus side, Broodbank is wordy, preciously wordy and a lot of the information, due its scantiness and lack of historical narrative, is not interesting. Requires patient reading.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2013
The author doesn't disappoint. This is indeed a welcomed update of Braudel's sweeping history of the area, presenting the much larger picture (including geography, climate, migration patterns, innovations), thus allowing us to view the growth and development of this area in a way that makes sense and helps us to better understand how, why, and when communities flourished, perished, and influenced one another. The maps are highly informative and the graphics excellent including absolutely stunning color photographs. It's not a quick read by any means, like any sound scholarly treatment, but every sentence is a pleasure as the author uses descriptive and precise language to paint a fascinating picture of our predecessors, beginning with our hominid ancestors and cousins. As another commentator has mentioned, this book is HEAVY - providing both a healthy mental and physical workout!
on August 1, 2015
I will begin by saying that I enjoyed this book immensely, as much as David Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How the Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World and Jean Manco’s Ancestral Journeys. And while all of the 3 books offer detailed surveys, in addition Dr. Broodbank’s The Making of the Middle Sea offers a rich vocabulary and syntax, replete with modifiers – adjectives, adverbs, prepositional and infinitive phrases, subjunctive clauses, and appositives, that make his depictions of settings, cultures, transitions, and interactions a pleasure to read and often to savor, like a glass of Ipsus from Pantelleria. Also, the book offers a map at the beginning of each historical chapter locating nearly all of the sites discussed within the chapter (as well as a map at the beginning of the book identifying many of the important features of the Mediterranean basin), many pictures and graphics within each chapter exemplifying textual descriptions, and 59 photographs of important archaeological artifacts and sites on two sets of pages of plates.
Another strength, and possibly the book’s strongest feature, is the perspective that it offers. For the time period of each chapter, it discusses activities across the basin, the influences from outside the basin, and the interactions and networks within and beyond it. At least as importantly, it discusses the roles of climate in occasioning growth or conflict, depopulation and urban abandonments, the opportunities or stimulus in some regions imparted by the perturbations in another, and the scattered distributions of resources, advances in shipping transport, growth in population and pleasures of wine consumption in converting the Sea from barrier to medium of commerce and cultural convergence. Of particular note is Dr. Broodbank’s analysis and discussion of the likely origins of the paroxysms that afflicted the eastern Mediterranean circa 1200 BCE – a very compelling portrayal.
One shortcoming of the book is its glossy pages. These require the light source or book to be positioned in a manner that prevents glare.
Another possible shortcoming is the book’s heavy reliance on other books (in lieu of articles) as references, some priced in the high hundreds to low thousands of dollars (so only readable in the library of a more prominent university). Preferable, if possible, would be greater reliance on academic, peer-reviewed articles, often available at one or more sources (usually governmental or academic) at no cost to the reader (save the printing cost, if printed). Also, some journals publish cumulative surveys of articles, current knowledge and/or areas of research, in effect small detailed books heavy on analysis. Similarly detailed books heavy on analysis may be found as PhD theses at U.S. elitist universities.
One shortcoming is common to all great and lesser works: The relentless advance of human knowledge will render parts gibberish. On page 325, Dr. Broodbank writes, “Earlier archaeologists took the kinds of cultural changes we have witnessed in the northern Mediterranean, along with this fresh signature of long-distance associations across the subcontinent as a whole, as the combined markers of a massive westward thrust of Indo-European language speakers, often thought to originate north of the Black Sea. This has now been rejected on good archaeological grounds, at least beyond the Carpathian basin….” The June 2015 article in Nature entitled “Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe” suggests that this, at least in regard to central Europe, is rather on the side of bunk.
Finally, it is a pleasure to have finished this historical and literary treasure, as finishing it gives the opportunity to fill in detail with other fine books and articles (although I did use Wikipedia as a quick supplement while reading it). Nonetheless, I am certain that I will be returning to this work many times to refresh perspective. And I look forward to discussing it with a friend, after he finishes the last 100 pages.
on June 16, 2015
A masterpiece on a vast, appropriate scale. This isn'f for light reading, but magisterial, in the Braudel tradition -- sweeping history illuminated by detailed study of smaller pieces of the mosaic. The writing is very clear, sometimes amusing, and packed (cue in the relevant Mediterranean metaphor here). You really have to plunge into this, it is definitely encyclopaedic -- it's taken me almost a month to get through it, a few pages a day, but it is completely worth it (especially if you can't get to your cunning little pied-à-terre in Monaco this summer, I wish). If you want a fast read go somewhere else. It could serve as the basis for an interdisciplinary degree all by itself. It begins with the geological formation of the Mediterranean and ends about 500 BCE. The illustrations and maps are beyond praise -- they are essential elements of the unfolding story. "The Corrupting Sea" would be a good contemporary follow-up, or (warmed up) head for The Odyssey.
on February 4, 2015
while it is a very good book it is hard to handle, it just to heavy to read comfortably.
on February 2, 2015
An eye opener indeed
on January 11, 2015
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2014
Broodbank is amazing. If you have a scholarly interest in ancient trade network theory, this book is for you.