Author : Kathleen D. Morrison, Laura L. Junker
"""Description:I'm very far from an expert, so will keep this brief. The bitterness of the ""hunter-gatherer"" academic wars are old news. For those not familiar with the issues, just keep in mind that terminology, politics, and issue priorities have moved rapidly in this area. While the hunter-gatherer wars have been remarkably rabid and violent, but they have also generated what seems to be a good deal of real progress. Thus, *any* relevant book a decade old is going to look a bit quaint and sound a little dated. Given that background, this one is still well worth reading. In my uninformed opinion, about half the book is still fresh and almost unique. The other half (much of the middle, as it happens), seems muddled and sometimes just wrong. The chapter on depictions of women in south Indian rock art never comes to grips with the obvious question. The images look a lot like SE Asian asvaras (""angels""). Some of the same lay-out and symbolism are found, for example, at contemporary Angkor Wat. So, are we learning something about women in 12th century south India, or about the universality of asvara mythology, or about cultural contacts between Angkor and southern India? I also choked on the pointlessly politicized discussion of the early Portuguese spice trade, e.g., the idea that spices were practically stolen from exploited wandering swidden farmers. Pepper and cardamom (as reported in the same article!) take 3-4 years to mature, during which time the plants must be protected, and then bear fruit irregularly, over several more years. Hard to reconcile this with nomadic slash-and-burn tribes, no? Perhaps those sword-swinging, kick-ass asvaras guarded it ... But this is nit-picking. The sections on North India and Australia are sound, unusual and fascinating. The whole subject of pre-modern trade networks is one I find endlessly intriguing, and the contributors shine spotlights on normally very dark corners of this picture. For that matter, the article on pre-European trade between Australia and Indonesia alone is worth the price of admission -- a tad speculative, mind you, but worth it all the same. If you, too, are the sort who would sell parts of your soul to know exactly how Antonine Roman gold coins ended up in Java (not a tale told in this particular volume), then this book will be worth every silver piece you pay for it."""