To the Ends of the Earth: How Ancient Explorers, Scientists, and Traders Connected the World

Oxford Univ. Jan. 2024. 300p. ISBN 9780197668023. $34.99. HIST
In this ambitious work, Schulz (ancient history, Bielefeld Univ.) successfully creates a comprehensive account of explorations that took place during the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1600 BCE) right up to the first century of the Common Era. While the focus is on cultures of the Mediterranean Basin, the book incorporates sources from China, southern Africa, and the Baltics. Schulz uses a framework that he calls “explorative constellation” to analyze dispositions, mindsets, motives, political and economic constraints, geographic understanding, and technical and material resources of these ancient peoples to explain why some cultures promoted expeditions, commerce, and advanced geographical knowledge while others did not. The book rapidly covers enormous ground, and it utilizes a breadth of resources—literary, mythological, archaeological—from a vast array of Eurasian cultures in a compelling synthesis that never feels like mere survey. Some readers, however, might balk at the amount of faith mentioned in the interpretations of works such as the Odyssey, as the author deciphers what he calls “encoded information.”
VERDICT An up-to-date, comprehensive work on ancient exploration. Highly recommended for scholarly readers, but general readers who are interested in reading titles that reevaluate when globalization began will appreciate it as well.
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