Monica L. Smith

Monica L. Smith

Monica L. Smith is a faculty member of the department of anthropology at UCLA. She specializes in archaeology and has worked at ancient sites in India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, England, Italy, and Madagascar.

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The Human Past and the Human Present


The human species is wonderfully diverse and creative. Thanks to the technologies that we have invented, we can live almost anywhere--even in outer space and under the sea.

The history of our capacity to innovate and adapt started over two million years ago with the development of the first stone tools. Even the earliest crude implements are a marker of decisions about which resources to choose, which to carry, and which to abandon in favor of new ones.

Another major change happened about 10,000 years ago, when climate change and population growth led to the adoption of agriculture. Although farmers never forgot about the wild resources in their midst and continued to use them for medicine and fuel, the new communities that developed along with agriculture were places of social and artistic transformation. After another few thousand years, the first cities were born, in which people invested their labor in architecture, social networks, and the increasing consumption of material goods.

Archaeology as the "story of us" enables us to trace our fascination and need for artifacts from the earliest times to the present day. Our own dependence on objects--their manufacture, presentation, and discard--is a marker of what it means to be human, carried over from the distant days of our earliest human ancestor.

Selected Works

Science Writing
A Prehistory of Ordinary People
The origins of multitasking
Young Adult
Popular articles
Bon Appetit: The Archaeology of Food and Cuisine
Food in the past and in the present
What do Animals Have to Do with People?
History and archaeology of animal use

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