Cover: Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World, from Harvard University PressCover: Thirst in HARDCOVER


Water and Power in the Ancient World

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Product Details


$25.95 • £20.95 • €23.50

ISBN 9780674066939

Publication Date: 11/26/2012


384 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

49 color illustrations, 17 line illustrations, 11 maps

United States and its dependencies only

In his often riveting Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World, Steven Mithen—a prehistorian—briefly describes this source of contemporary worry, and then describes in detail how ancient civilizations, from China and Cambodia to the Middle East, Arizona, Mayan Central America, and Incan Peru, managed their water supplies and thus made arid land inhabitable… Mithen expounds archaeological sites with verve and clarity and makes the technicalities of, for example, Sumerology surprisingly accessible… The archaeological Middle East is where Mithen is at home. In other parts of the world he writes as a traveller, but an exceptionally alert and well-informed one. He is excellent on the subject of Cambodia, where he gives a lucid summary of the dispute among archaeologists about the extent and purpose of the highly elaborate hydraulic system around Angkor Wat… Mithen is passionately convinced that the study of ancient water management offers us some lessons… Thirst is a vitally engaging book.—W. V. Harris, London Review of Books

[Mithen] builds to a striking conclusion. Though we may think that the rise of complex social and economic networks enabled ancient cultures to manage their water, the reverse may well be true: only when a society had reliable access to water could it turn itself into an economic or cultural power.—Cornelia Dean, The New York Times

Mithen provides a well-written examination of how selected societies worldwide coped with problems of too much or too little water… This is a valuable book for the general public interested in prehistory and water management.—L.L. Johnson, Choice

Mithen, a proven storyteller, is at his best in this engaging introduction to humankind’s management of water throughout the world. Lucid prose and evocative vignettes make clear the broad and complex sweep of this story, which is both ancient and timely.—Vernon L. Scarborough, University of Cincinnati

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