How the division of the Americas from the rest of the world affected human history.
In 15,000 B.C. early humankind, who had evolved in Africa tens of thousands of years before and spread out to populate the Earth, arrived in Siberia, during the Ice Age. Because so much water was locked up at that time in the great ice sheets, several miles thick, the levels of the world's oceans were much lower than they are today, and early humans were able to walk across the Bering Strait, then a land bridge, without getting their feet wet and enter the Americas.
Then, the Ice Age came to an end, the Bering Strait refilled with water and humans in the Americas were cut off from humans elsewhere in the world. This division - with two great populations on Earth, each oblivious of the other - continued until Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America just before 1500 A.D. This is the fascinating subject of THE GREAT DIVIDE, which compares and contrasts the development of humankind in the 'Old World' and the 'New' between 15,000 B.C. and 1500 A.D. This unprecedented comparison of early peoples means that, when these factors are taken together, they offer a uniquely revealing insight into what it means to be human.
THE GREAT DIVIDE offers a masterly and totally original synthesis of archaeology, anthropology, geology, meteorology, cosmology and mythology, to give a new shape - and a new understanding - to human history.
Peter Watson was born in 1943 and educated at the universities of Durham, London and Rome. He was deputy editor of New Society and spent four years as part of the Insight team of The Sunday Times. He was New York correspondent of The Times and has written for the Observer, The New York Times, Punch and the Spectator. He is the author of thirteen books and has presented several television programmes about the arts. Since 1998 he has been a Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge.
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