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A Million Years In A Day summary

Greg Jenner

A Curious History of Everyday Life From the Stone Age to the Phone Age

3.8 (32 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

A Million Years in a Day by Greg Jenner is a humorous and informative look at the daily routines and rituals of humans throughout history. From the ancient Egyptians to modern times, Jenner explores how our daily habits reflect our cultural, social, and technological advancements.

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    A Million Years In A Day
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    Timekeeping and the toilet date back as far as the Stone Age.

    It’s 9:30 on a Sunday morning and your alarm clock rouses you from your sleep. You’d rather snooze a little longer but your clock gives off another annoying buzz, and you reluctantly get out of bed.

    Today, clocks certainly govern the pulse of our lives; but the act of keeping time is actually something that dates back all the way to the Stone Age.

    In fact, the world’s oldest calendar is 30,000 years old. It was found in Le Placard in the Dordogne region and is made out of eagle bone. Along its surface are scratched a series of notches that chart the waxing of the moon, from new to full.

    This relatively crude timekeeping is nothing compared to what the ancient Egyptians developed. With their sundials, they could use the shadow of a rod to indicate the approximate hour. And at night, they could track and chart the movement of the Decan stars that appear over the eastern horizon just before dawn, and move from east to west by one degree each day. This allowed the Egyptians to determine the day of the week as well as an approximate hour of the night.

    But returning to our morning routine: it’s 9:45 a.m., and having dragged ourselves out of the bed, we make a morning trip to the toilet. But how old are toilets after all?

    Toilets date as far back as the Stone Age, too – just not toilets as we might imagine them.

    Stone Age urban sanitation wasn’t especially sophisticated. In Çatalhöyük in Turkey, archaeologists have found evidence that, 9,500 years ago, sanitation basically meant piling human waste in a courtyard. But about 4,500 years ago, advanced sanitation systems appeared in the cities of the Harappan societies, in modern-day Pakistan. They had sewers, wiping material, water to flush and even a seat.

    Now that we’ve finished our toilet stop, it’s time to have breakfast. Next, we’ll move into the kitchen and consider the history of breakfast.

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    What is A Million Years In A Day about?

    It’s easy to assume that our daily rituals are merely recent traditions that have taken shape in recent generations. In reality, a surprising amount of basic habits can be traced all the way back to the Stone Age. Greg Jenner’s A Million Years In A Day (2015) depicts a typical modern Sunday, from brushing one’s teeth to reading the newspaper, and reveals the long and hefty history behind our everyday lives.

    A Million Years In A Day Review

    A Million Years In A Day (2015) by Greg Jenner takes readers on a captivating journey through the history of human civilization, answering questions we've always wondered about. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Explores a wide range of intriguing and unexpected topics, from the origin of breakfast to the evolution of toilet habits, making history come to life in an entertaining way.
    • Offers fascinating insights into the ways our ancestors lived, enabling readers to gain a deeper understanding of our own cultural practices and traditions.
    • With its lively and relatable storytelling, the book avoids dry historical accounts, ensuring that readers are engaged and entertained throughout.

    Best quote from A Million Years In A Day

    Though its surprising to imagine we have anything in common with Stone Age cave-loiterers, the things we do every day are the things weve pretty much always done.

    —Greg Jenner
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    Who should read A Million Years In A Day?

    • People interested in cultural history
    • Scholars of the Stone Age

    About the Author

    Greg Jenner has worked as a media consultant for major channels like the BBC, History USA and ITV, verifying the accuracy of historical dramas and documentaries. His writing has featured in The Huffington Post, The Radio Times and the BBC History Magazine.

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    A Million Years In A Day FAQs 

    What is the main message of A Million Years In A Day?

    Discover the history of everyday life in an entertaining and informative way with A Million Years In A Day.

    How long does it take to read A Million Years In A Day?

    The reading time for A Million Years In A Day varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is A Million Years In A Day a good book? Is it worth reading?

    A Million Years In A Day is a fascinating read that offers insights into the evolution of our daily routines. It's definitely worth your time.

    Who is the author of A Million Years In A Day?

    Greg Jenner is the author of A Million Years In A Day.

    What to read after A Million Years In A Day?

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