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The First Americans


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J. M. Adovasio, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute. He lives near Erie, Pennsylvania. Jake Page is a former editor of Natural History magazine and science editor of Smithsonian magazine. He lives in Corrales, New Mexico.


An anthropologist, field archaeologist, and founder and director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, Adovasio has been at the frontier of developments in archaeology since the Seventies, when the site he was excavating, Meadowcroft Rockshelter (near Pittsburgh), yielded materials thousands of years older than what was found at the Clovis sites in the Southwest. Challenging the primacy of "Clovis Man" as the earliest settler of the Western Hemisphere was "not for the timid of heart," Adovasio explains in the introduction to this robustly written insider view of fieldwork, discovery, and warfare among specialists. In examining various theories, beliefs, and scientific inquiries into who the first Americans were and how they got here, Adovasio touches on many aspects of this question: Native Americans; the views of Europeans, starting with Columbus; conjectures regarding the mound builders; the discovery of the Clovis culture in the 1930s, later dated from 9200 to 8500 B.C.E. by radiocarbon; and evidence from linguistics, genetics, and skeletal remains, including the recent events surrounding "Kennewick Man" (see James E. Chatters's Ancient Encounters). Written with candor, humor, and passion, this well-documented study makes the latest findings accessible to general readers and students. For public libraries and special collections in anthropology and archaeology. Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"As good as popular science writing gets." --The Wall Street Journal

"Powerful intrigue. Name-calling and blackballing. Treachery, collusion among archaeologists on an all-out hunt for a holy grail. An Indiana Jones movie? No. The actual search to identify the first humans to inhabit North America. . . . Adovasio, who became an internationally known archaeologist and academic, has created in The First Americans a book that pulses with plot-drive." --Los Angeles Times "After a quarter-century of rebutting the challenges to his find, Mr. Adovasio has been transformed from a renegade into a leader in the field. Digs in North and South America have only buttressed his onetime pre-Clovis heresy, and Mr. Adovasio conveys a palpable excitement, in this anything-but-tedious archaeology book, at the possibilities of what might yet be discovered." --The Wall Street Journal

Who got here first? That's the controversial question that has galvanized American archeology from its earliest days. The traditional view is that the first residents of the new world were the Clovis people, hunters who crossed the Bering Strait during the Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. Yet based on his own research, archeologist Adovasio launches a spirited attack on the Clovis theory. With co-writer Jake Page, a former Natural History editor, Adovasio explains his findings at a site called Meadowcroft in southwestern Pennsylvania. Two of the ancient tools from this dig were carbon-dated to 12,900 and 13,170 B.C., thousands of years before the Clovis lived. This discovery has thrust Adovasio into the center of the anti-Clovis movement. Adovasio weighs the Meadowcroft findings against the history of American archeology itself. He profiles seminal figures in the field as well as some cranky Clovis theorists, and reviews different theoretical approaches. He also explains the use of dating methods such as dendrochronology (counting the rings of trees) and lucidly discusses the natural history of the continent, with its glaciers and ancient megafauna. While these factors are relevant to the question of human habitation, Adovasio's very broad view somewhat dilutes the main story of the Clovis wars. There's also a note of bitterness and personal grievance in Adovasio's discussion of his pro-Clovis colleagues, which may turn off some readers. (Aug. 20) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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