Interested in learning more about how to do math like an ancient Egyptian, check out David Reimer’s book Count Like an Egyptian.
It may seem strange, but as James Turner argues on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Conversations blog, the modern humanities may not be at “death’s door,” as so many commentators imply. He says that a longer view–one that extends back to ancient times–tells us that what we are seeing is a reemergence of a generalist, philological approach to the humanities. Back to Philology indeed!
Listen to the dire talk around colleges and universities, read op-eds and magazines, and you might think the humanities were in greater danger than the earth’s climate. In fact, despite the overheated rhetoric, the humanities are not at death’s door. Contemporary pressures will more likely push them into a new shape, even ultimately a healthier one.
That claim might seem bizarre. The proportion of college students majoring in the humanities has sunk to an all-time low. Students have turned their backs on art history and literature in favor of studies, like accounting and nursing, that lead directly to jobs. Governors like Florida’s Rick Scott have worked to undercut fields of study not tuned closely to employment. President Obama wants education to stress science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Funds for research in disciplines like history and linguistics are drying up. Congress has already slashed the budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and now Rep. Paul Ryan wants to kill it.
Analysts of higher education paint a more ambiguous picture. How many years ago you start counting—either majors or research dollars—determines how gloomy the humanities numbers look. And with more and more Americans going to college only to qualify themselves for work, most time-honored fields of study have taken a hit, not just the humanities. But even at a traditional, elite institution like Stanford, majors in humanities disciplines have fallen so low as to alarm faculty members into unprecedented missionary efforts.
To see how, paradoxically, a starvation diet may rejuvenate the humanities, it helps to take a long view. First of all, the humanities disciplines familiar in American higher education today did not even exist 200 years ago. Sure, in 1814 students learned the Greek and Latin languages, but no discipline called “classics” devoted itself to ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Yes, a college president in that era was likely to lecture on moral philosophy, but the broad range of topics covered by a modern philosophy department had no place in his institution.
Continue reading at The Chronicle of Higher Education web site: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/06/09/yes-the-humanities-are-struggling-but-they-will-endure/
In the eye of the storm – that is to say, in the unrelenting public discussion that is climate change – author Eric H. Cline’s latest Op-Ed for The New York Times packs quite a gale force.
Holding both ancient and contemporary society up to the proverbial light, Cline asks if we’re really all that different from our forebears and whether or not we’re capable of avoiding a similarly abrupt end.
Eric H. Cline, a Professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University and the Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute, doesn’t hesitate to present these very early, and very scary repercussions of environmental catastrophe. He reminds readers that these events have acted as catalysts of warfare and harbingers of destruction since the days of old, or, more specifically, since the tail-end of the Late Bronze Age.
In his new book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Cline reveals that the thriving cultures within Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia didn’t necessarily succumb to the military prowess of the ‘Sea Peoples’ alone, but rather, fell victim to Mother Nature herself: earthquakes, changes in water temperature, drought, and famine hearkened in a period of rebellion, followed by complete ruin.
“We still do not know the specific details of the collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age or how the cascade of events came to change society so drastically. But it is clear that climate change was one of the primary drivers or stressors, leading to the societal breakdown.”
The real question Cline seems to be getting at is: “Why not us?” We’re no more able to control the weather than they were – or are we? Recent debates about global warming suggest that we might just be able to put off our own demise, at least temporarily.
What happens if we don’t change our habits, however, is less certain; but Cline is fairly convinced, based on the evidence from his book, that it won’t be good. For him, the possibility of total collapse is far from the realm of the ridiculous, and his article is not so much a threat as it is a warning. Maybe if we know what brought our ancestors into the Dark Ages, we can stay in a light for just a little while longer.
Eric H. Cline is the author of:
|1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691140896
264 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 halftones. 2 maps. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400849987
Reviews Table of Contents Prologue[PDF]
Dear Friends, Book Lovers, and Knowledge Seekers:
A recent government-issued report on the security threats posed by climate change warns of the potential for widespread conflict due to food shortages and competition for resources. The fragility of our interconnected and interdependent global civilization is at stake. An unprecedented event? Not at all. In the 12th century B.C., the great civilizations of the late Bronze Age came tumbling down one by one wracked by war, famine, drought and numerous other calamities which in part may have been caused, recent evidence indicates, by an apparent change in climate. The archaeologist Eric Cline tells the story of this collapse in his fantastic and best-selling new book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. The book is part of a brand new series just launched here at the press: Turning Points in Ancient History, edited by ancient historian Barry Strauss. Professor Cline’s book is one the most exciting I have ever published (if you don’t believe me, watch this trailer).
The collapse of the Bronze Age is, as the ancient historian Ian Morris put it, “one of history’s greatest mysteries.” And yet so few people are aware of this pivotal event in human history. Eric Cline’s book is going a long way to remedy that. And so far, readers like it—they really like it.
Would the inhabitants of the Bronze Age World have seen it coming if they had an oracle like the famous one at Delphi? Probably not. As Michael Scott points out in his new book, Delphi: The History of the Center of the Ancient World, the oracle’s pronouncements were almost always cryptic and open to the interpretation those seeking answers wanted to give it—often with disastrous empire-ending results (see Croesus, King). Yet people from around the ancient world flocked to the site for nearly a thousand years for religious, political, and even financial reasons as Delphi was also the banking capital of the Greek city-states. A sacred site indeed. Michael Scott tells the full story of this magnificent site from its founding to its archaeological rediscovery in the 19th century. It truly was the center of the world in ancient times. In fact, the Greeks called the site the omphalos or “the belly-button of the ancient world” (which I guess is better than being “the armpit of America” like us here in NJ).
Speaking of seeing it coming, I recently came across a peculiar ad in the New York Subway system for the Manhattan Mini Storage reminding (warning?) New Yorkers that in 1789 the French aristocracy failed to see the revolution that was in their midst—a revolution which would end with many of them headed to the guillotine.
Does Manhattan Mini Storage know something we don’t? What exactly were the signs of the coming revolution that those decadent aristocrats missed (and which apparently should have had them heading for their storage lockers)? To find out more about the animating ideas of the French Revolution (and possible signs for our own times) read historian Jonathan Israel’s major new intellectual history of the French Revolution, Revolutionary Ideas.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I can heartily recommend any of these books for reading at the beach (or the shore if you live in New Jersey), especially if you’d like to impress your fellow beachgoers with your intellect, if not your tan. Our Bronze Age is better for your skin anyway. But as you work on your tan, it would do you well to remember that vanity has its drawbacks, as the philosopher Simon Blackburn reminds us in his wonderful meditation on the use and abuses of self-love, Mirror, Mirror.
It’s been a great pleasure to work on these books and so many other important and fascinating books this past year. I hope you’ll find one you like. Or why not more than one? After all, you’re worth it.
Happy reading this summer!
Rob Tempio, Executive Editor of Philosophy, Political Theory, and the Ancient World
Classics at UC Davis welcome Eric Cline for a lecture on Troy and the Trojan War: Homer, Hittites, Hokum, and History on May 7th at 4 PM. Definitely worth checking out if you can.
There’s a review of Cline’s new book 1177 B.C. appearing in the May 12 issue of The Weekly Standard, too:
“In this enjoyable new book, Eric H. Cline has set himself an ambitious task: Not only must he educate a popular audience about the wealth and power of the eastern Mediterranean civilizations of the Bronze Age, he must then make his readers care that, some time around the year 1200 b.c., these empires, kingdoms, and cities suffered a series of cataclysms from which they never recovered.”–Susan Kristol, The Weekly Standard
Eric H. Cline is Professor of Classics and Anthropology, Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University, in Washington DC. An active field archaeologist, he has excavated and surveyed in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, and the United States for 29 seasons since 1980. He is currently Co-Director of two excavations in Israel: Megiddo (biblical Armageddon) and Tel Kabri. Dr. Cline has published fifteen books including The Battles of Armageddon: Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age; Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel; From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible; Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction and The Trojan War: A Very Short Introduction.
His most recent book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, has topped the Amazon.com best-seller list for Kindle, Audio, and Print Archaeology books for several weeks. Writing for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik described 1177 B.C. as “new and exciting….adding an archaic flavor to the current stew of apprehension and awe about where the world is going, and what we might find when it gets there.”
Now, on to the questions!
What inspired you to get into your field?
My mother gave me a book when I was seven years old. It was called The Walls of Windy Troy and was a biography of Heinrich Schlieman. After reading it, I announced that I was going to become an archaeologist. When I graduated from college with a degree in Classical Archaeology, my mother gave me the same book again…
What would you have been if not an archaeologist?
What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about what archaeologists do?
They think that I look for dinosaurs.
Civilizations have survived droughts, famines, earthquakes, invaders; but they only had to handle those disasters one at a time.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love and love what you do.
Why did you write 1177 BC?
I wanted to write about WHAT collapsed as well as explore how and why it collapsed…
What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?
There were numerous interesting things that I learned from writing the book. Among these I would highlight the fact that the Sea Peoples seem to have been given a raw deal in previous scholarly literature and have been used as convenient scapegoats, blamed for ending the Late Bronze Age. In fact, they were just one of the numerous factors that contributed to the demise of multiple civilizations at that time and may have been as much victims as oppressors. Also, I was intrigued to see that there were so many factors, or stressors/drivers, that contributed to the collapse; I had initially thought that I’d be able to explain away and dismiss one or two, but all of them make some sort of sense. On the other hand, when one thinks about it, that in itself makes sense — civilizations have survived droughts; they have survived famines; they have survived earthquakes; they have survived invaders; but in almost every case, they only had to handle those disasters one at a time. So, when there are multiple disasters all at once, that’s when civilizations might not be able to outlast and survive them. And that seems to have been the case at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
I knew that the book’s theme of Collapse would resonate with many in today’s world, but I wasn’t quite prepared for its timeliness.
What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
I think that the book’s most important contribution is going to depend upon the individual reader, for it will be different for each one. Some readers, like Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, appreciate learning the history and stories of the 300 years during which the various Late Bronze Age civilizations were flourishing…and realizing the parallels to today’s globalized world. Others are more interested in the fact that the Collapse occurred and see parallels to today’s world. Perhaps most surprising to me is the extent to which some readers have latched on to the fact that there was climate change back then, even in the days before the burning of fossil fuels and emissions from cars, etc, etc, and are now applying it to their own arguments, for instance in the NY Post and the National Review Online. Also, I knew that the book’s theme of Collapse would resonate with many in today’s world, but I wasn’t quite prepared for its timeliness, with “disaster” and “collapse” scenarios for our own civilization seeming to appear on a weekly basis at the moment!
What is your next project?
Continue to dig at Megiddo and Kabri during the summers. Writing a book about Megiddo – an archaeological history of Armageddon
Eric is the author of:
|1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
Eric H. Cline
Hardcover | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691140896
264 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 halftones. 2 maps.
eBook | ISBN: 9781400849987
Also available as an audiobook
Table of Contents
Free Excerpt, read the Prologue[PDF]
We knew 1177 B.C. by Eric Cline would be a big book for us, but it has become a run-away seller (even appearing on the Canadian best-seller list the week of its release) since its release in late March and we have just ordered a third printing! Not only is it topping the archaeology charts on Amazon, but it’s also seeing some great sell through in independent bookstores. Case in point, check out this terrific story from our West coast sales representative, Steve Ballinger.
Greetings – I’m back after a long haul through California. The rain was Weather Channel worthy at times. The orders were great. Somehow I didn’t get one good meal out of the trip. Carl’s Jr and Jack in Box were the top spots for cuisine last week. The route of the sales calls took me over the mountain ranges and forests, past the vast orchards of angry farmers, up and down the dreaded Grapevine. Yet, a miracle happened.
Friday, after visiting the bookstores in Ukiah, I drove on up to Northtown Books in Arcata. Northtown Bookstore could easily fit in the hipster haven of Brooklyn. The parking is better though. It was one of those situations of selling the list at the front counter and pausing while Dante, the store owner, handled customers. We got the first two books in the order, The Extreme Life of the Sea and The Transformation of the World. But then he passed on the ancient history titles even after much whimpering and trying on my part. I could just visualize the 1177 B.C. title in the store.
Well, a few customers came and went, a twenty-something mom with tousled hair asked about #7 and #8 of the Unicorn series and he said he could get it in for her. We got to Lost Animals and then the phone rang. I could hear him say, “As it turns out I am having a meeting with the publisher’s representative right now.” He came back shaking his head in amazement, the customer on the phone, had called to see if he could order 1177 B.C. Princeton’s new book. We went from zero to 2. A miracle. It was some guy named Darius.
A miracle in Arcata, CA.
Michael Scott is an assistant professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick, though he is perhaps most recognized as a presenter for ancient history documentaries on National Geographic, the History channel, Nova, and the BBC. His new book on Delphi has been getting excellent reviews so far, including this from The Spectator: “Tells you everything there is to know about Delphi.” We couldn’t agree more and hope you will sample this complimentary chapter.
The book presents a thorough history of this historical site–expanding our understanding beyond the oracle to incorporate Delphi’s importance as a site of commerce, international politics, sporting competitions, culture, and on and on. It also includes a brief chapter for present-day visitors with insider’s tips on the sights to see making it the perfect companion for anyone planning a trip to see Delphi for themselves.
Now, on to the questions!
PUP: What inspired you to get into your field?
Michael Scott: A trip to Greece–indeed to Delphi–when I was 17 at school convinced me to study Classics at University. Whilst there, I was lucky enough to study at the British Schools at Rome and at Athens and to study in and amongst a wide range of fascinating archaeological sites. From that point on, I never looked back
What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?
For me, this book highlights what history, and particularly ancient history, really is. Not a list of undisputed facts about what happened, but a continuing dialogue–from then right up to now–of different, sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory arguments about how to understand the past, and the place of the past in our present and future. As the saying goes, ‘the future is certain, the past just keeps on changing.’
To properly understand any one moment and event, I argue that we need to connect histories from around the globe.
What was the most influential book you’ve read?
Tough one. In regard to the study of the ancient world, probably E R Dodds’s Greeks and the Irrational. I remember reading it just before starting my undergraduate degree and it entirely changing my perception of what studying the ancient world would be like.
Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book because while Delphi has been extensively studied, that study has often been piecemeal (in focusing on one particular activity at Delphi), or compartmentalized (in terms of focusing on what particular period of its 1000+ year history), or written from the standpoint of a particular kind of evidence (literary, inscriptional or archaeological). But that is not how the ancients saw, used or perceived Delphi. If we are to understand Delphi and its unique place and longevity within the ancient world, we have to get to grips with how the different sources portray Delphi’s portfolio of activities interacting across its lifespan to create a place that remained at the centre of the ancient world for so long.
PUP: What is your next project?
In my next book project, I want to break down some of the disciplinary boundaries between arenas of study in our ancient past. The book will focus on some of the most famous dates in our ancient story: 2000 BC and the completion of Stonehenge; 508 BC and the origins of democracy; 218 BC and Hannibal’s march across the Alps as well as 312 AD Constantine’s victory at the battle of Milvian Bridge. But exploring these critical moments is only the beginning. To properly understand any one moment and event, I argue that we need to connect histories from around the globe to examine what was happening elsewhere at these crucial times. So, yes, democracy may have been invented in ancient Greece in 508 BC, but what was happening politically at that time in Italy, or indeed in China? Constantine may have begun Rome’s march to Christianity in 312 AD, but what great shifts in religious observance were happening in India or North Africa? In asking that question, this book will connect up our different pasts and as a result enable us to understand the varying speeds, and kinds, of evolution that the regions of our world have been through. It will open up a window onto the similar and different challenges and issues we have faced, as well as the responses and ideas we have developed as a result.
Michael is the author of:
We are delighted that the following Princeton authors will be speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival in Oxford, UK, in the last week of March. Details of all events can be found at the links below:
Jacqueline and Simon Mitton, husband and wife popular astronomy writers and authors of From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System and Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe respectively, will be speaking on Monday 24 March at 4:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Monday-24/in-search-of-our-cosmic-origins-from-the-big-bang-to-a-habitable-planet
David Edmonds, author of Would You Kill the Fat Man? The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong will be speaking on Monday 24 March at 6:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Monday-24/morality-puzzles-would-you-kill-the-fat-man
Robert Bartlett, author of Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation will be speaking on Tuesday 25 March at 2:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Tuesday-25/why-can-the-dead-do-such-great-things
Michael Scott, author of Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World will be speaking on Wednesday 26 March at 10:00am http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Wednesday-26/delphi-a-history-of-the-centre-of-the-ancient-world
Simon Blackburn, author of Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love will be speaking on Wednesday 26 March at 4:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Wednesday-26/mirror-mirror-the-uses-and-abuses-of-self-love
Roger Scruton author of the forthcoming The Soul of the World will be speaking Thursday 27 March 12:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Thursday-27/the-soul-of-the-world
Alexander McCall Smith, author of What W. H. Auden Can Do for You will be speaking about how this poet has enriched his life and can enrich yours too on Friday 28 March at 12:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Friday-28/what-w-h-auden-can-do-for-you
Averil Cameron, author of Byzantine Matters will be speaking on Friday 28 March at 2:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Friday-28/byzantine-matters
Edmund Fawcett, author of Liberalism: The Life of an Idea will be speaking on Saturday 29 March at 10:00am http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Saturday-29/liberalism-the-life-of-an-idea
In addition, Ian Goldin will be giving the inaugural “Princeton Lecture” at The Oxford Literary Festival, on the themes within his forthcoming book, The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It on Thursday 27 March at 6:00pm http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events/2014/Thursday-27/the-princeton-lecture-the-butterfly-defect-how-globalisation-creates-system
Most of us are unlikely to visit Delphi in our lifetime and the likelihood of receiving a true Delphic reading is even more slim without the invention of a time machine. Thankfully University College London has saved us the effort of manipulating time and space by creating this handy web widget where you can Consult the Oracle: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/GrandLatMisc/oracle.htm
I can practically smell the ethylene, benzene, methane, or whatever else you believe leaked out of the rocks at the Oracle of Delphi. What wisdoms will the oracle relate? What conundrums will she solve? What mysteries will she impart on the masses? Oh, just go have a look already!
And if you’re interested in learning more about Delphi, please check out Michael Scott’s new history. It tells the story of Delphi in a manner you’ve never seen before. The oracle is described in great detail, of course, but he also explains why Delphi was important as a banking, sporting, political, and cultural center. The book concludes with a short travel guide for those of us lucky enough to visit in person (or perhaps just daydreaming about the trip).
Coming in April 2014 — 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end.
In this major new account of the causes of this “First Dark Ages,” Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.
In celebration of the joint meeting of the American Philological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America, we’ve lowered the price of The Barrington Atlas app to $14.99. It will only be on sale through January 8, so don’t wait. After January 8, the price will return to $19.99 (which is still a steal given the print book costs $395.00).