The Lost Civilizations Of The Stone Age by Richard Rudgley

Prehistory is a difficult and potentially dangerous area to enter, even for an experienced archaeologist or palaeohistorian. Richard Rudgley has made a good career from debunking myths both historical and prehistorical, including in a couple of excellent television series, and in The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age he describes various aspects of Neolithic and Mesolithic life that he thinks need clarification. It’s all fascinating stuff, covering a wide range of subjects, from tallies and early astronomy, through art, sculpture, hunting equipment, understanding of environment and much more. The book takes a backwards journey through prehistory, a template which perfectly allows Rudgley to point out how much of what appears suddenly in the prehistorical record is in fact based on earlier, simpler beginnings.

On the whole, my feeling is that, although Rudgley has a few favoured authors whom he quotes and uses as support for his own ideas, he is fair-minded and reasonable in his outlook. Some reviewers (e.g. on Goodreads) have attacked him for setting up straw men and for trying to promote the notion of a Stone Age utopia. Although such criticism could be aimed at the book’s foreword and afterword, I think it’s well off the mark as a whole. Rudgley is scrupulous with the speculation of his chosen influences, for example the work of the American-Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, which he often quotes.

Overall, an excellent, insightful and fair book, recommended to all fascinated by human origins.