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An Archaeology of Desperation: Exploring the Donner Party’s Alder Creek Camp Hardcover – October 20, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kelly J. Dixon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Montana and author of Boomtown Saloons: Archaeology and History in Virginia City.



Julie M. Schablitsky is Senior Research Archaeologist at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, University of Oregon, and the editor of Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past.



Shannon A. Novak is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, and author of House of Mourning: A Biocultural History of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; First Edition edition (October 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780806142104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806142104
  • ASIN: 0806142103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An Archaeology of Desperation is a mixture of highly interesting and under sensationalized findings. And yes, if there is any doubt as to why people are interested in the Donner Party, it is the cannibalism issue. It is exactly what makes their entire story a timeless curiosity and always will. I recently gave a presentation on Lansford Hastings and Manifest Destiny, and almost every question afterwards, without fail, was about the Donner Party and... surprise, cannibalism.

The book is comprehensive in respect to the multidisciplinary approaches taken in an attempt to congeal some of the many facets of the Donner Party story. The book's focus is the Alder Creek or Donner family camp, but it pulls in information from the lake camp as well. Kristin Johnson's first chapter summary of the Donner Party is the most lucid account I have ever read, and is worth buying the book for that chapter alone. She is extremely knowledgeable and a clear authority on the Donner Party.

I liked the way some of the authors attempted to bring the "normalcy" of every day life into the sphere of the Alder Creek camp discussion, but at the same time it read as if there was an excessive need to place the women of the Alder Creek camp in the forefront as if their contributions had been egregiously omitted in the past. Oddly, at least from this reader's perspective, I always thought Tamzene was the focal point of the entire Alder Creek camp, almost overpowering the role of the men who were there--and rightfully so. The poor woman had her hands full ten fold. Somehow, I don't think the men nor women at the Alder Creek camp vied for dominance under the miserable conditions they experienced.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent resource for students of the Donner Party expedition, this scholarly and highly readable book reflects the most thorough efforts to date of a multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians for understanding the situation and activities of the Alder Creek camp occupants. The reader acquires new information about the events that transpired during the winter of 1846-47 near present day Truckee, CA and insights into the investigators' analytic and problem-solving processes and methods used. Unlike most works on this subject this book provides a comprehensive context for understanding the living situations, including comparisons between Alder Creek and Lake Camp parties and comparisons of materials uncovered at Alder Creek with those found in the Donner wagon abandoned in the desert. Similarly, chapters are devoted to historical perspectives, analysis of bone fragments, cannibalism (in all its dimensions), contacts attempted by Washoe Indians, and the post-tragedy reports. Numerous maps, figures, and tables guide the reader through the analyses and findings contained in this well documented and edited volume. Seldom are scholarly books page-turners but, in the opinion of this reviewer, An Archaeology of Desperation: Exploring the Donner Party's Alder Creek Camp, is clearly one of them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pretty creepy as on of characters is same as mine.
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