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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Archaeology

Stuff Humanity's Epic Journey from Naked Ape to Nonstop Shopper

By: Chip Colwell(Author)
304 pages, 60 b/w illustrations
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  • Stuff ISBN: 9781805260493 Hardback Nov 2023 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 5 days
Price: £24.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Over 3 million years ago, our ancestors realised that rocks could be broken apart for sharp edges, to cut and slice meat. The discovery made for a good meal. It also changed the fate of our species and our planet.

In this lively and learned book, Chip Colwell charts three great leaps in humankind's relationship with objects and belongings, from the discovery of tools to the production of endless commodities. How did we start out as primates who needed nothing, and end up as people who need everything? With colourful characters, astonishing archaeological discoveries, and reflections from philosophy and culture, Colwell's quest for answers takes readers to places both spectacular and strange: the Italian cave featuring the world's first painted art; a Hong Kong skyscraper where a priestess channels the gods; a mountain of trash whose height rivals Big Ben or the Statue of Liberty.

Humans make stuff, but our stuff makes us human – and our love affair with things may be our downfall. With landfills brimming and oceans drowning in plastic, now is the time for a fourth and final leap for humanity: to reevaluate our relationship to the things that make, and could break, our world.

Customer Reviews


Chip Colwell is an archaeologist, a former museum curator and Editor- in-Chief of Sapiens, a digital magazine about anthropological thinking and discoveries. He is the author and editor of twelve books, including Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America's Culture, which received six book awards.

By: Chip Colwell(Author)
304 pages, 60 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"Compelling [...] and alarming."
The New Yorker

"A marvellously fascinating journey through our overstuffed world. Entertaining, inspiring and alarming in equal measure, I found myself learning new things from nearly every page."
– Ed Conway, Sky News, author of Material World

"Incredibly fresh, engaging and urgent. Chip Colwell will profoundly shift how you see your world and the mountains of stuff in it."
– Farrah Jarral, writer, broadcaster and author of Anima

"A fascinating, beautifully written, provocative history of how humans acquire stuff. This is a notable, at times humorous, reflection on the excesses of consumerism since prehistoric times, of relevance to all of us, rich or poor."
– Brian Fagan, author of A Little History of Archaeology

"Humans have too much stuff, and it is breaking the planet. Colwell brilliantly relates how and why we got here. His engaging, fun narrative through deep history and across societies describes our intense relations to the stuff we make, dream about and accumulate. Most importantly, he offers us a path to more just, equitable and sustainable lives."
– Agustín Fuentes, author of Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being

"This eminently readable book reveals the very stuff that makes us human around the world, from stone tools to fast fashion. Stuff asks how we became so attached to so many things, and whether we'll ever be able to survive without them."
– Lynn Meskell, author of A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace

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