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In The Near East: Archaeology in the 'Cradle of Civilization', Charles Maisels charts the emergence of modern archaeology from antiquarianism and anthropology during the nineteenth century. He examines the intellectual background which created the Ages System of Stone, Bronze and Iron and which first organized archaeology as a historical discipline, highlighting the work of nineteenth and twentieth century pioneers in the field whose skill and imagination provided us with the basis of what we know of Near Eastern prehistory. Charles Maisels' research provides a straightforward developmental account of the period which saw the transition from foraging, farming and neolithic village to city-state. He details the causes and effects - environmental, organizational, demographic and technical - which resulted in the world's first village farming cultures some eight thousand years ago. Beyond this, he explains how cities such as Uruk and Ur, Nippur and Kish formed by exceptional nucleation on the arid silt plains between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in what is now Iraq.
In identifying the key organizational features of Sumerian society, he accounts for the emergence of the world's first script, system of calculation and literature.