9780679310655 / 0679310657

Bones: Discovering the First Americans


Publisher:Random House Canada



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About the book:

These are troubling times for archaeologists and historians who study the peopling of the Americas. Once equipped with a grand narrative--one that imagined the arrival of migrant hunters across a land bridge from Asia to Alaska, who then spread themselves in a more or less orderly fashion across the hemisphere--those scholars are now confronted with messy, contradictory evidence that suggests that nearly everything about that narrative is wrong. In Bones, Toronto-based journalist Elaine Dewar takes the reader on a fittingly confusing journey through the politically charged, scientifically uncertain theories that have emerged in recent years. Among her stops is a visit with archaeologist James Chatters, whose work with the remains of so-called Kennewick Man has been assailed by many for his unguarded assertion that the 10,000-odd-year-old skull was "Caucasoid." She takes a close look at the rancorous divisions and controversies surrounding the treatment of provably Native American remains. She also reports on archaeological evidence from around the Americas that suggests that the continents' earliest inhabitants may well have come from many places by many routes--and at a much earlier date than the textbooks set. Dewar takes pains to treat all sides (at least those that have good science behind them) fairly, though she is quick to name researchers who, in her view, have manipulated facts and objects to bad ends.

Dewar's book combines solid investigative journalism, a well-developed command of a complex discipline, and fine storytelling skills. Any reader with an interest in prehistory will learn from these pages. --Gregory McNamee

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