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The First Americans

The First Americans

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Written by James AdovasioAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by James Adovasio and Jake PageAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jake Page

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 352 pages
  •  
  • Publisher: Modern Library
  • On Sale: June 17, 2003
  • Price: $15.95
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-75704-4 (0-375-75704-X)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

Archaeologist J. M. Adovasio has spent the last thirty years at the center of one of our most fiery scientific debates: Who were the first humans in the Americas, and how and when did they get there?

H. L. Mencken said that “for every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” Conventional thinking has it that the first Americans were a band of hunters who crossed the frozen Bering Strait during the Ice Age some twelve thousand years ago and whose descendants spread to the tip of South America in five hundred years. Now, in no small part because of J. M. Adovasio’s work, our notions of who first peopled the Western Hemisphere, how they arrived, and how they lived have been forever changed.

Adovasio begins The First Americans by putting his work into historical context, from the earliest European fantasies about where the Native Americans came from to the birth of modern archaeology and the origins of the dogma his own work has debunked. But at its heart, his book is the story of the revolution in thinking that he and his peers have brought about, and the firestorm it has ignited. As he writes, “The work of lifetimes has been put at risk, reputations have been damaged, an astounding amount of silliness and even profound stupidity has been taken as serious thought, and always lurking in the background of all the argumentation and gnashing of tenets has been the question of whether the field of archaeology can ever be pursued as a science.”

"Jim Adovasio’s never been one to mince words, and I was wondering whether he’d be tamed by the printed page. Silly me. This book with Jake Page is vintage Adovasio: incisive, funny, self-deprecating in his own Imperial manner, and sure to trigger howls from the brethren (of both sexes) at the receiving end of his barbs. I let out a few myself. But this is no hit-and-run book: it’s a detailed and wide-ranging exploration of the history and current state of views on the archaeology, geology, and environment of late Pleistocene North America. As such, it provides an important perspective on the fierce storm over the peopling of the Americas, from one who’s been at its churning center for well-on three decades." —David J. Meltzer, Professor of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University

"This book offers us a frank exploration of the often-nasty debates that swirl around the earliest archaeological sites that the Americas have to offer and the archaeologists who study them. A book like this could be written only by a bold insider--someone who has long worked in the area, has participated in all the debates, knows all the players, and is fearless. Adovasio is all these things. He is also honest; insofar as I have first-hand knowledge of the events described in this book, his account rings true. Participants in the debate are forewarned: the gloves are off here." —Donald K. Grayson, Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington

"James Adovasio has long been an authority on the first settlement of the Americas. His closely argued and often passionate account of one of archaeology's greatest mysteries helps define the new and exciting era of research which lies ahead. In the process, he takes us into a scientific world peopled with colorful personalities and never-ending controversy." —Brian Fagan, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara

"The First Americans will take you down the meanest streets in archaeology. James Adovasio is the perfect guide to the science, the infighting, and the passion surrounding a deceptively simple question, "When was the Western Hemisphere first peopled?" Read to find where the bodies are buried. Read for enjoyment. But above all, read for honest answers." —Clive Gamble, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

"In recent years many books have been written about the archeology of the First Americans, but if there is an untold story, this is it. Adovasio’s (and Page’s) scholarly perspective is expert and sophisticated; his arguments are boldly presented in clear, elegant prose. He describes how some archeologists stubbornly cling to a theory that explains an increasingly smaller body of scientific evidence. This honest, engrossing, and unique book explores the peopling issue with such eloquence and clarity of purpose that it reads like a good novel. Adovasio is an unusually direct writer with an intimate knowledge, as an insider, of the way archeological science is often conducted. He offers a sharp-witted story of the fragility, dishonesty, double standards, and phony scientific posture of leading archeologists who often put aside scientific procedure to defend their professional careers and turfs. This book not only raises fundamental questions about power in science and the tenacity of old paradigms but also about the psychology and motives of some archeologists. Above all, the freshness of the author’s approach, his intelligent combination of interdisciplinary evidence, prehistory, geography, and his convincing model of the peopling process are all of benefit and challenge to the general reader and professional alike. Timely and cogent in its aims and arguments, it should prompt new critical questions about the initial peopling of the Americas." —Tom D. Dillehay, T. Marshall Hahn Professor of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, author of The Settling of the Americas: A New Prehistory