Old Lessons from Old Pots

Haim Watzman Two lessons to be learned from the just-published discovery of 18,000-year-old pottery in a Chinese cave, which I report at Nature.com. First, societies differ. Here in the Levant, people first settled down, started farming, and then got the idea of making storage containers out of fired clay. All that happened as part of … Read more

Childe’s Play: Neolithic Revolution or Evolution?

I’ll forgive Gershom his faux pas in referring to the laws of thermodynamics when he meant Newton’s laws of motion; after all, I’ve the science beat on this blog. The slip-up shows, however, how important terminology is. Gershom wanted to make a point about how every action produces a reaction. The first law of thermodynamics says that the change in the internal energy of a closed system equals the heat inserted into the system plus the work done in the system. That produces a very different political metaphor.

A political word, “revolution,” gets used in a lot of scientific contexts without sufficient attention to the meanings it bears with it. In this post I want to address one of those contexts, the period in prehistory called the Neolithic revolution.

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