Category Archives: Civilization

Wade Davis on the unraveling of America

  Wade Davis writes: Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the… Read More »

How the extinction of ice age mammals may have forced us to invent civilisation

Wikimedia Commons/Cloudordinary, CC BY-SA By Nick Longrich, University of Bath Why did we take so long to invent civilisation? Modern Homo sapiens first evolved roughly 250,000 to 350,000 years ago. But initial steps towards civilisation – harvesting, then domestication of crop plants – began only around 10,000 years ago, with the first civilisations appearing 6,400… Read More »

Surveying archaeologists across the globe reveals deeper and more widespread roots of the human age, the Anthropocene

People have been modifying Earth – as in these rice terraces near Pokhara, Nepal – for millennia. Erle C. Ellis, CC BY-ND By Ben Marwick, University of Washington; Erle C. Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Lucas Stephens, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Nicole Boivin, Max Planck Institute for the… Read More »

How Arab scholars preserved scientific texts serving as the foundations of modern knowledge

In a review of Violet Moller’s new book, The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found, Katie Hafner writes: While religion dictated the cultural winds of the Western world, ideas flowed freely through the Middle East, traversing religions and cultures. Knowledge began flowing into Baghdad from every direction… Read More »

Misreading the story of climate change and the Maya

Stucco frieze from Placeres, Campeche, Mexico, Early Classic period, c. 250-600 AD. Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA By Kenneth Seligson, California State University, Dominguez Hills Carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere have reached 415 parts per million – a level that last occurred more than three million years ago, long before the evolution of humans. This… Read More »

Let’s cultivate our material intelligence

Glenn Adamson writes: Are you sitting comfortably? If so, how much do you know about the chair that’s holding you off the ground – what it’s made from, and what its production process looked like? Where it was made, and by whom? Or go deeper: how were the materials used to make the chair extracted… Read More »