SOCIAL SCIENCES

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

Norton. Feb. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780393652666. $26.95. ARCHAEOL
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Newitz is an opinion writer for the New York Times and author of novels including Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline. In this latest work, she takes a time-transgressive look at how centers of urban development rise, thrive, and die. Newitz focuses on four prehistoric urban centers in order to give readers an understanding that, despite differences in time, place, and complexity, urban societies share many similarities. Important urban centers considered are Catalhoyuk, Pompeii, Angkor Wat, and Cahokia. The author poignantly expresses the clear similarities of the “life and death” of these centers of urban development, but also ties them to our understanding of present-day centers of urban population and the complexities of their organization and decay. This book represents a real-time perception of the modern urban age and the lessons learned from prehistory. The author’s observations are well-researched, current, and directly applicable to our modern lives. Four Lost Cities represents a contemporary companion to Elaine Morgan’s Falling Apart, the Rise and Fall of Urban Civilization (1972). Those interested in prehistoric urban complexity, ancient civilizations, and world history will benefit from this new book.
VERDICT An excellent contribution to literature on ancient civilization and complexity.

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