The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization

S. & S. Dec. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781982114732. $28. NAT HIST
iologist Ennos (Trees) examines how tree products have served us since our arboreal origins. Archaeologists have long organized human history into the stone, bronze, and iron ages while pointedly ignoring the importance of wood to human progress. Wood has long served us in the forms of tools, shelters, fuel, communication, and transportation. Of course, we cannot know the complete history of this close relationship, as, due to its organic structure, it is not often found in the oldest archaeological sites. However, we can hypothesize how our ancestors relied on wood throughout the centuries, especially as hunter-gatherer societies. As the author points out, every explorer from Leif Erikson to Sir John Franklin sailed in wooden vessels, and the Wright brothers first achieved flight with a wooden plane—it is difficult to imagine how our species would have interacted in the world without it.
VERDICT This engaging natural history will draw in fans of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Vince Beiser’s The World in a Grain. It does a fantastic job of elevating humble wood to its rightful place alongside stone, bronze, and iron as a key resource in leading humanity to its dazzling achievements.
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