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

December 1, 2020
The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization

A groundbreaking examination of the role that wood and treeshave played in our global ecosystem—including human evolution andthe rise and fall of empires—in the bestselling tradition of YuvalHarari’s Sapiens and Mark Kurlansky’s Salt.As the dominant species on Earth, humans have made astonishingprogress since our ancestors came down from the trees. But how didthe descendants of small primates manage to walk upright, becometop predators, and populate the world? How were humans able todevelop civilizations and produce a globalized economy? Now, in TheAge of Wood, Roland Ennos shows for the first time that the key toour success has been our relationship with wood.Brilliantly synthesizing recent research with existing knowledgein fields as wide-ranging as primatology, anthropology,archaeology, history, architecture, engineering, and carpentry,Ennos reinterprets human history and shows how our ability toexploit wood’s unique properties has profoundly shaped our bodiesand minds, societies, and lives. He takes us on a sweepingten-million-year journey from Southeast Asia and West Africa wheregreat apes swing among the trees, build nests, and fashion tools;to East Africa where hunter gatherers collected their food; to thestructural design of wooden temples in China and Japan; and toNorthern England, where archaeologists trace how coal enabledhumans to build an industrial world. Addressing the effects ofindustrialization—including the use of fossil fuels and otherenergy-intensive materials to replace timber—The Age of Wood notonly shows the essential role that trees play in the history andevolution of human existence, but also argues that for the benefitof our planet we must return to more traditional ways of growing,using, and understanding trees.A winning blend of history and science, this is a fascinatingand authoritative work for anyone interested in nature, theenvironment, and the making of the world as we know it.