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A History of Dogs in the Early Americas Hardcover – May 29, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (May 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300069642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300069648
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Schwartz, a research assistant in physical anthropology at Yale, presents here a meticulously documented study of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and dogs in the Americas from prehistory through European contact. Borrowing from genetics, archaeology, and tribal myth, the author traces the development of a variety of indigenous canine breeds and their role in the daily life of Native American tribes of both continents, including a treatment of working dogs, the eating of dog meat, dogs in the afterlife, and dogs in folk art. Schwartz has included detailed footnotes, maps, a chronology, and a wealth of reproductions and renderings of original art. This comprehensive mosaic of facts from sociology, biology, history, and legend is an academic yet readable book for scholars and others with a strong interest in the history of dogs in early civilizations or the ethnohistory of the Americas.?Valerie Diamond, Thurgood Marshall Law Lib., Univ. of Maryland Sch. of Law, Baltimore
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A clunkily written but fairly fascinating history of dogs in the pre-Columbian Americas, from Schwartz, a research assistant in anthropology at Yale. Working from ethnohistorical accounts, chronicles, codices, hieroglyphics, linguistic sources, and artwork, Schwartz takes the measure of what dogs meant to the early Americans. She goes back into the mists, detailing morphological, ecological, and genetic traits that, combined with the cultural and biological components of domestication, make a dog a dog and not a wolf gone soft. Schwartz covers familiar ground as she describes what is thought to be the first human association with dogs (as camp guards, scavengers, and pack animals); the dawning awareness among humans that a dog's superior sight, hearing, and smell could be used to advantage in stalking game (from the Iglulik of the far north, who used them to hunt musk oxen, to the Patagonians way south, who employed them in hunting guanacos); and the growing importance of dogs in the myths of such diverse groups as the Cheyenne and Penobscot, the Inca, Aztec, and Mayan cultures. The book starts to get really interesting when Schwartz delves into cultures that ate dogs (as either a spiritual or gastronomic delicacy), and into the fancy rituals fashioned to rationalize the consumption of a creature that humans found a little more kindred than, say, a chicken. And her foray into the symbolic and metaphorical complexities of pre-Columbian art about dogs--the dog as archetype, as omen and totem, as guide to the afterlife--is much the best part of the book, as Schwartz relaxes, hits a fanciful speculative stride, and shows off her research talents to their best advantage. For the Indians, no less than for modern Americans, having a dog around required evaluating the benefits ``of keeping dogs versus the cost of maintaining them.'' The benefits began winning out, Schwartz demonstrates, a long time ago. (84 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Justin A. Martin on November 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Wonderfully researched, Marion Schwartz's book, A History of Dogs in the Early Americas, examines the relationship between dog and master in the pre-Columbian period. Following an anthropologic approach, the book is primarily concerned with dogs as beasts of burden, dogs in cosmology, and dogs as gastronomic delicacy.

Schwartz's text surveys prehistoric archaeology in the Americas, noting occurrences of dogs as grave goods. Schwartz also draws on the accounts of colonial period missionaries and chroniclers who accompanied de Soto and Cortés. Schwartz's scope is overly broad and leaves the reader with repetitious gloss and little interpretation; a more thorough discussion of each early American societies' significance and worldview would lend a deeper understanding of the place of dogs within the culture.

This book may be of interest to the backyard archaeologist; however, its lack of depth and poor organization make it of little use to the serious scholar. Given the book's wholistic nature, it is likely to alienate the general, dog-loving reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Ort on December 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
As the title of the book says, this is a history of dogs, so do not expect any deep details about the different peoples mentioned. However, as a backyard Anthropologist myself, I find no fault in this book and proclaim that it is an interesting and easy read. Schwartz touches on many cultures' relationships with dogs, which makes for handy anecdotes to wow friends and people at the dog park.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Darla on November 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I am a life-long dog-lover (trained, showed, competed with as well as devoted caregiver to animal companions), I was led to this book through a current exploration into dogs of Americas and, specifically, into the prehistory and history of dogs in the Southwest (Arizona and Mexico) while seeking possible light to be shed on the distant origins of the Chihuahua.

I found this book fabulous! I particularly enjoyed that the author included strong support (stories and images) towards the woman-dog relationship. I thought the writing was an easy access for the lay person (which I am) compared to some texts geared more towards the academic reader.

The author admits in her preface that she was not a "dog person" when her research began and yet, at the end she states "Now, of course, I am becoming a dog person." I think this candid approach is reflected in the book and revealed how charming dogs can be even when one is simply researching their history!
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