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So Much Stuff

How Humans Discovered Tools, Invented Meaning, and Made More of Everything

So Much Stuff

How Humans Discovered Tools, Invented Meaning, and Made More of Everything

How humans became so dependent on things and how this need has grown dangerously out of control.
Over three million years ago, our ancient ancestors realized that rocks could be broken into sharp-edged objects for slicing meat, making the first knives. This discovery resulted in a good meal, and eventually changed the fate of our species and our planet.
With So Much Stuff, archaeologist Chip Colwell sets out to investigate why humankind went from self-sufficient primates to nonstop shoppers, from needing nothing to needing everything. Along the way, he uncovers spectacular and strange points around the world—an Italian cave with the world’s first known painted art, a Hong Kong skyscraper where a priestess channels the gods, and a mountain of trash that rivals the Statue of Liberty. Through these examples, Colwell shows how humanity took three leaps that led to stuff becoming inseparable from our lives, inspiring a love affair with things that may lead to our downfall. Now, as landfills brim and oceans drown in trash, Colwell issues a timely call to reevaluate our relationship with the things that both created and threaten to undo our overstuffed planet.

304 pages | 60 halftones | 6 x 9

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology


Table of Contents

On the Origin of Things: An Introduction

Leap 1: Make Tools

1. First Things First
2. The Matter at Hand
3. Everything under the Sun

Leap 2: Make Meaning

4. A Thing of Beauty
5. Articles of Faith
6. Dress Coded

Leap 3: Make More

7. In the Thick of Things
8. A Material World
9. Too Much of a Good Thing

On the Future of Things: A Conclusion

Key Terms and Concepts
Image Credits

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