After Eden

The Evolution of Human Domination

After Eden

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: 9 illustrations, 2 maps Published: December 2006

Activism, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies

When did the human species turn against the planet that we depend on for survival? Human industry and consumption of resources have altered the climate, polluted the water and soil, destroyed ecosystems, and rendered many species extinct, vastly increasing the likelihood of an ecological catastrophe. How did humankind come to rule nature to such an extent? To regard the planet’s resources and creatures as ours for the taking? To find ourselves on a seemingly relentless path toward ecocide?

In After Eden, Kirkpatrick Sale answers these questions in a radically new way. Integrating research in paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology, he points to the beginning of big-game hunting as the origin of Homo sapiens’ estrangement from the natural world. Sale contends that a new, recognizably modern human culture based on the hunting of large animals developed in Africa some 70,000 years ago in response to a fierce plunge in worldwide temperature triggered by an enormous volcanic explosion in Asia. Tracing the migration of populations and the development of hunting thousands of years forward in time, he shows that hunting became increasingly adversarial in relation to the environment as people fought over scarce prey during Europe’s glacial period between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. By the end of that era, humans’ idea that they were the superior species on the planet, free to exploit other species toward their own ends, was well established.

After Eden is a sobering tale, but not one without hope. Sale asserts that Homo erectus, the variation of the hominid species that preceded Homo sapiens and survived for nearly two million years, did not attempt to dominate the environment. He contends that vestiges of this more ecologically sound way of life exist today—in some tribal societies, in the central teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the core principles of the worldwide environmental movement—offering redemptive possibilities for ourselves and for the planet.


After Eden is . . . packed with information, extremely well-written, and full of stimulating ideas concerning the origins of domestication. . . . Dense but highly stimulating and exciting to read. A valuable addition to the anti-civ library. Grab it.” — Green Anarchy

After Eden is a gift, the first fruits of six years of reflection. It is an offering of archaeology, anthropology, paleontology, sociology, and a dozen cousin disciplines upon the altar of theology. For surely the reader who enters into Kirkpatrick Sale’s world will emerge wanting to ask God a few questions.” — Elena Thompson, Anglican Theological Review

After Eden is a thought-provoking attempt to understand the rapacity that is now so clearly characteristic of homo sapiens. . . .” — Marc Maximov, Independent Weekly

After Eden offers not only a detailed and integrated view of human history, but also encouraging glimpses into tools people might muster towards addressing the predicament we have all, in one way or another, inherited from history.” — Chellis Glendinning, Resurgence

“[W]hat sets After Eden apart from other similar works and what excites me as a social scientist, is Sale’s social and critical emancipatory point of departure and the explicit lessons he tries to draw from the ancient past for the present . . . . [T]he central point of Sale’s book is one that cannot be ignored.” — Bram Buscher, Electronic Green Journal

“Critically, [Sale] underscores our human propensity to live in an objective world, and he does so in a flowing, friendly writing style that provokes admiration and applause. He carefully documents his way through the paleoanthropological literature in his accounting of our evolution.” — Miles Richardson, PaleoAnthropology

“Kirkpatrick Sale is the outstanding radical writer of the English-speaking world today. . . . He reaches some mind boggling conclusions, but what is riveting is the route by which he travels: how man the hunter-gatherer moved on to become the agriculturalist, and then man the urban city dweller, all the time stressing how the basic psychic cords of his nature from his earliest stages have continued to persist and how their failure to prevail can only be as transient as they may prove tragic.” — John Papworth, The Ecologist

“Recommended.” — M. J. O’Brien, Choice

“This is a highly readable book. The value of this study is that it investigates an achievement that many take for granted (humans becoming the dominant species on this planet). This work, both well researched and documented, also provides extensive notes.” — Larry Benson, Environmental History

"[An] elegant, brief . . . and very readable re-telling of human prehistory. Sale nicely conveys the synergy of human relations with nature—domination isn't a simple one-time event but rather an evolving process, with humans at particular times and places making changes to their natural setting and those changes in turn causing humans to change and make further changes to nature, or to migrate with their nature-dominating technologies to new places and resume the process there. Although the book's central idea is quite original, it is well-grounded in current, mainstream archeological and anthropological scholarship, documented in fully 40 pages at the back of the book." — Tricia Shapiro, Asheville Global Report

After Eden is broadly and punctiliously researched and urgently argued. Its central idea may be disputed but not ignored. Kirkpatrick Sale has always been both a deeply countercultural thinker and also immensely cultured.” — Lionel Tiger, author of The Decline of Males: The First Look at an Unexpected New World for Men and Women

“Kirkpatrick Sale has been enlightening us on the issue of scale for a generation now, and in this new book he uses the concept to help us understand our own consciousness. A fascinating book!” — Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

“The things that Kirkpatrick Sale writes about are near and dear to me—things that I have spent most of my adult life thinking deeply about. Seldom would I have the confidence to reach judgments from the evidence as boldly as does Sale, but I suspect that he is right in most of his conclusions.” — Steven E. Churchill, Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of a dozen books, including The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream; Rebels against the Future: The Luddites and their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age; The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962–1992; and The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former editor at the New York Times Magazine.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction 1

1. The Dawn of Modern Culture: 70,000-50,000 Years Ago 11

2. The Conquest of Europe: 55,000-20,000 Years Ago 37

3. Intensification and Agriculture: 20,000-5,000 Years Ago 71

4. The Erectus Alternative: 1,800,000-30,000 Years Ago 105

Notes 139

Source Notes 145

Bibliography 175

Acknowledgments 179

Index 181
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3938-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3885-7
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