The Encyclopedia of World History,
by Peter N. Stearns, General Editor
But this new edition is much more than an expansion of a classic; it reflects important recent changes in historical trends and historical thinking. In addition to showcasing traditional facts of national leadership and state power, the Encyclopedia embraces social and cultural developments, non-European history, women's history, religion, health, economics, technology, and other vital but less often reported aspects of the human drama. Here is a chronicle not only of major political events but of ordinary people, covering shifts in the relationships between men and women, developments in leisure, and demographic currents. And for all periods there are summaries of global developments that cannot be captured in national or regional frameworks. As editor Stearns notes in his preface, "The world we know historically has greatly changed. The revisions that animate this edition celebrate this change, benefiting from the labors of countless venturesome scholars over the past several decades." A masterwork whose roots date back to the nineteenth century, this exciting volume belongs at the elbow of every history lover and of anyone who has ever been curious about our constantly changing, remarkably diverse human story.
More than 20,000 concise entries, ordered chronologically through the year 2000
52 maps for easy reference
Multiple cross-references between entries
Comprehensive index for quick searches
New, incisive overviews of each era and region
1. THE NEANDERTHALS
The best-known early Homo sapiens populations are the so-called Neanderthals, named after the Neanderthal Cave in Germany, where the first Neanderthal fossil came to light in 1856. Once dismissed as brutal, primitive savages the cave people of popular cartoon fame the Neanderthals are now recognized as being tough, adaptable people capable of flourishing in very harsh climates indeed.
Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) probably evolved from earlier Homo sapiens populations in Europe and Eurasia at least 150,000 years ago, perhaps earlier. They were nimble, squat people, standing about 5 feet high, with forearms that were somewhat shorter than those of modern people. Heavily built, beetle-browed hunter-gatherers, the Neanderthals of western Europe were robust men and women, well adapted to the arctic cold of the early Würm glaciation of 100,000 years ago. Their relatives in the Near East were more lightly built and displayed much more anatomical variation.
The Neanderthals of Europe and Eurasia lived in caves and rock shelters during the winter months and ranged more widely during summer. They used a more specialized technology for hunting and foraging, one that made use of composite tools, with stone spearheads bound to wooden shafts. They made thousands of scrapers and woodworking tools using more or less standardized flakes struck off from carefully prepared stone blanks. This Mousterian technology, named after the Le Moustier cave in southwestern France, was highly versatile and used in various forms over a wide area of Europe, Eurasia, North Africa, and the Near East. The Neanderthals were expert foragers who were not afraid to hunt the largest animals, including bison. Success in the hunt meant expert stalking, enabling the hunter to thrust a spear into the prey's heart, a high-risk way of obtaining food. Somewhat similar technologies were used by early Homo sapiens populations throughout the western portions of the Old World after 150,000 years ago.
The Neanderthals were the first humans to bury their dead, and, presumably, to believe in an afterlife. Single burials are most common, usually accompanied by a few stone tools or some game meat. Group sepulchers are also known. Some western European groups engaged in elaborate rituals involving cave bears, the most formidable of all Ice Age prey. We find in the Neanderthals and their culture the first roots of our own complicated beliefs, societies, and religious sense. But they were an evolutionary dead end, supplanted in their homeland by more modern humans between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago.