This reader-friendly textbook introduces the student to the archaeological past from ca 7 million years ago through later politically complex societies. To address one key concern expressed by numerous students in introductory archaeology courses — too much material to comprehend easily — this textbook does not attempt to discuss every archaeologically important site and development in prehistory and early history. Rather it presents key issues for earlier prehistory (prior to politically complex societies) and then organizes the chapters on politically complex societies using a similar framework in each of these chapters (6-14). This also aids students in making comparisons and contrasts between different geographical regions. Each of these chapters highlights a specific case study in which similar themes are examined (e.g., The Written Word; Resource Networks, Trade, and Exchange; Social Life; Ritual and Religion; Warfare and Violence). In some instances, case studies also include sections on Oral Traditions, Urbanization, and the Non-Written Word.