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The Barbarians

Lost Civilizations

We often think of the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome as discrete incubators of Western culture, places where ideas about everything from government to art to philosophy were free to develop and then be distributed outward into the wider Mediterranean world. But as Peter Bogucki reminds us in this book, Greece and Rome did not develop in isolation. All around them were rural communities who had remarkably different cultures, ones few of us know anything about. Telling the stories of these nearly forgotten people, he offers a long-overdue enrichment of how we think about classical antiquity.
As Bogucki shows, the lands to the north of the Greek and Roman peninsulas were inhabited by non-literate communities that stretched across river valleys, mountains, plains, and shorelines from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. What we know about them is almost exclusively through archeological finds of settlements, offerings, monuments, and burials—but these remnants paint a portrait that is just as compelling as that of the great literate, urban civilizations of this time. Bogucki sketches the development of these groups’ cultures from the Stone Age through the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west, highlighting the increasing complexity of their societal structures, their technological accomplishments, and their distinct cultural practices. He shows that we are still learning much about them, as he examines new historical and archeological discoveries as well as the ways our knowledge about these groups has led to a vibrant tourist industry and even influenced politics. The result is a fascinating account of several nearly vanished cultures and the modern methods that have allowed us to rescue them from historical oblivion.

208 pages | 25 color plates, 25 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2017

Lost Civilizations


History: Ancient and Classical History

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Society for American Archaeology: Popular Book Award

"Bogucki offers a concise and clearly written summary of the archaeology of 'prehistoric' Europe. . . . The focus on less-acknowledged European groups and their numerous complex lifeways serves as a counterpoint to the well-known ancient Greeks and Romans. The introduction in the book is particularly valuable for educating popular readers on the techniques of archaeology and it offers a brief account of its history in Europe. . . . The color photographs in the book were selected with great care and their quality is exceptional. This engaging book comes highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the ancestors of present-day Europeans."

Society for American Archaeology


Archaeological Institute of America: Felicia A. Holton Book Award

"The Vandals did vandalize Rome, but were the barbarians truly barbarous? This is the question asked by Bogucki in his new book The Barbarians, a thought-provoking, highly readable addition to Reaktion’s always interesting Lost Civilizations series."


"A beautifully bound and illustrated work of approachable scholarship . . . ably covering the most significant events in early European history from a learned and always interesting perspective. Bogucki details how the Barbarians played a role equal to that of the classical civilizations in the creation of European culture, and their legacy, while necessarily much harder to trace and define, is every bit as important and lasting as their Mediterranean brethren."

William H. Funk | Ancient History Encyclopedia

"Bogucki successfully shows that the barbarian world was not flat and monolithic, and he sheds light on the development of the barbarian cultures over the centuries as a result of migrations and interactions with other civilizations."

The Historian

"The author’s goal is to present an overview of prehistoric Europe via modern archaeological discoveries, with the major focus on the years between 2000 BCE and 500 CE. Archaeologist Bogucki provides valuable information from the European Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages to balance the biased written records from the hostile Greek and Roman accounts that depict the northern barbarians as violent and depraved subhumans. . . . The author brings an intriguing story of barbarians into the present consciousness via looking at their emerging politics, complex economic and social systems, and evolving, sophisticated culture as evidenced in objective physical remains. . . . Recommended."


"I'm fascinated by barbarians, just as I'm fascinated by Greeks and Romans and Egyptians—though I'm fascinated with the latter because they were literate and we know so much about them. With barbarians the attraction is equal and opposite: they fascinate because they wrote nothing, and we know so little about them. Or rather, what we know must be inferred from the material remains of these prehistoric Europeans. Archaeologist Bogucki is thus an ideal candidate to write a general-interest book about 'barbarians' for the Reaktion Lost Civilizations series. He starts way back."

Tim Morris | lection

“Bogucki takes us on a travel tour of Europe, offering a series of wonderfully written vignettes about sites and situations of the prehistoric past. The Barbarians is an ideal way for students and lay readers alike to enter into the past with ease.”

Ian W. Brown, University of Alabama

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