Saturday, August 6, 2022

Peter Bellwood's "The Five-Million-Year Odyssey"

Peter Bellwood is professor emeritus of archaeology at the Australian National University. His many books include First Migrants: Ancient Migration in Global Perspective and First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. He is the winner of the 2021 International Cosmos Prize.

Bellwood applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Five-Million-Year Odyssey: The Human Journey from Ape to Agriculture, and reported the following:
Page 99 deals with two topics. One concerns the first modern humans (Homo sapiens) in Europe and Asia at 50,000 to 45,000 years ago, and discusses how we might interpret their handiwork (e.g., art on cave walls). The other introduces the question of how our ancestors (as early modern humans) interacted with other ‘hominin” (human-like) species already present outside Africa. These included the Neanderthals and the Denisovans, with whom our ancestors both interbred and either replaced or assimilated in genetic terms.

My book is about the whole 5,000,000 year course of human cultural and biological evolution, starting from when our ancestors separated from those of living great apes, onwards to the several developments of agriculture, and to the creation of the human populations, cultures and languages that occupied the earth before the Columbian Exchange (1492 CE). My central viewpoint on all of this history is that we as H. sapiens are the sole surviving species of humanity left in the world today. If our rulers are going to create a harmonious future for all of us, they must at least realise this, appreciate and encourage our human diversity, share our wealth fairly, and convert our world away from endless growth for profit (and war) towards balance.

As for page 99, it most certainly does not summarise all of this, and I would never have expected it to when I wrote the book! I have tried to cover everything from Australopithecus to the migrations of the Polynesians In 313 succinct pages of text and diagrams that I hope can be understood by a general reader, and also be of interest to those who know enough to argue about interpretations. Please enjoy my book.
Learn more about The Five-Million-Year Odyssey at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue