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A History of the Ancient Southwest Paperback – June 22, 2009

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1934691106 ISBN-10: 1934691100 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


This...is a magnificent summary of what we know about our prehistory. Each two-part chapter...tries to describe both the key players, i.e., archaeological interpreters, past and present and the cultures they interpret and/or argue about. Lekson does not hesitate to name names when analyzing views he sees as sometimes intentionally wrong-headed and, as you might imagine, he has some strong opinions about what is good in the field as well as what is bad. --Southwest Books of the Year Best Reading 2010

Stephen Lekson is a gifted and passionate writer and speaker. The breadth of his knowledge...is remarkable, and the result is that he can posit relationships that many of us would never perceive, provocative relationships that lead us to ask new questions.... History [of the Ancient Southwest] includes many such ideas...and will continue to be widely read. --Stephen Plog, American Antiquity, 2011

In Southwestern archaeology, a mind like Steve Lekson's comes along once in a generation. This is his magnum opus -- a highwire act that strings hundreds of bold ideas into a dazzling new synthesis. --David Roberts

Lekson does not mince words or wit as he demonstrates an extraordinary command of anthropological, historical, philosophical and, of course, archaeological literature. This book is a groundbreaking study of the sort that comes along too seldom. ... This book matters. -- Stephen L. Black, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Spring 2011

About the Author

Dr. Stephen Lekson earned his doctorate from the University of New Mexico. After a decade with the National Park Service and shorter stints with the Arizona State Museum, the Museum of New Mexico, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, he landed at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, where he has been curator of anthropology. Among his other books are Archaeology of the Mimbres Region, Salado Archaeology of the Upper Gila, Great Pueblo Architecture of Chaco Canyon, Nana's Raid, and Chaco Meridian.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: SAR Press; 1st edition (June 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934691100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934691106
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen H. Lekson is Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. He received his PhD from the University of New Mexico. Lekson directed more than 40 archaeological projects throughout the U.S. Southwest, mainly in the Mimbres and Four Corners areas. Lekson's publications include a dozen books, many chapters in edited volumes, and articles in professional journals and popular magazines. Most recently: "Chaco Meridian" (second edition, 2014) and "A History of the Ancient Southwest" (2009). His book-in-progress, "The Southwest in the World" should appear in 2016. Lekson is married to Dr. Catherine Cameron, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S. Hart on November 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are new to the archaeology of the Southwest, start HERE! You will save yourself weeks of dry reading about "conventional" views of the Anasazi, Hohokam, and Mogollon cultures of the first millenium CE in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Hundreds of pages on pottery styles that changed over hundreds of years may be interesting to some, but Lekson's synthesis of the current state of archaeological knowledge does not require a thorough knowledge of those styles. Don't be misled by the "weight" of this book. There are only 251 pages of text, complete with good maps and illustrations. In addition, for those already familiar with Southwestern archaeology, "A History of the Ancient Southwest" provides nearly 100 pages of endnotes full of technical details and an incredible 75-page bibliography. So no one, least of all professional archaeologists, can say that this book is too "general" to bother reading.

Lekson is light-years ahead of most of his contemporaries in throwing off historic archaeological conventions--witness the professional uproar he created by his publication of "The Chaco Meridian" a decade ago. This book should be on every Southwestern archaeologist's--professional and amateur--bookshelf, especially those working for the National Park Service at Chaco, Aztec, Mesa Verde, Casa Grande, Gila Cliff Dwellings, etc. And it should be required reading in graduate anthropology and archaeology programs at every university in the Southwest!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bruce N. Powers on January 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you don't read any other book on this subject, read this one! Stephen Lekson's readable style and sense of humor make this book not only informative, but a pleasure to read. The author presents an unbiased recitation of facts, and gives readers the benefit of other scholar's views as well as logically presenting his own. Those readers familiar with Dr. Lekson through his previous works will not be disappointed, and those unfamiliar with him are in for a treat. Viewed by many as something of a maverick for his unconventional theories intoduced a decade ago in "The Chaco Meridian", this book will do nothing to diminish Dr. Lekson's reputation! A "must read" for anybody interested in the prehistoric southwest!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter F. Jimenez Betts on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After having read years of processualist views/studies from an aging generation of isolationists, suddenly, after a prelude from the Chaco Meridian, comes this breath of academic fresh air into the Southwest. This study comes from one of the very few archaeologists who has taken the time to think, really think and reflect, beyond the level of corn, population density and the blah, blah, blah of the highly rhetorical, shallow arguments of many/most of his endogenous peers. I was especially happy to see works of Andre Gunder Frank and Kristian Kristiansen cited in the bibliography, as well as some of the more recent studies on the Aztatlán phenomena of Mexico's northern Pacific Coast, the ancient Southwest's peers and interactive neighbors for centuries. If a student/reader wants to begin to submerge into the ancient Southwest without the gaffers of a lost generation, this is a great place to start, and a stimuli for those experienced to review a basic question that has puzzled many Southwestern and Northern Mexico archaeologists for decades. What is probably Lekson's most important contribution to begin with is having come to terms with the errors of his generation, having stepped aside to lift his very active mind to questions and patterns beyond the short-sighted limits of the present day research. This is something most of his peers will never have the honesty, nor the preparation, to do. This book is a must for those who study the Southwest, as well as those who work in Northern Mexico, this latter group never having stayed from the notion of interaction between the two areas. This book is stimulating and kick-starts the Southwest out of its near comatose research agenda. If one goes on to read Frank's -ReOrient- and Kristiansen's -Europe Before History- one will realize how long the American Southwest has been in need of Lekson's book. Southwesterners- Welcome back, we have been waiting for you, where you been? Steve Lekson- WRITE ON !
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ideophile on September 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this book is best understood in the context of Lekson's reputation as a radical archaeological thinker - that is the only way to properly prepare oneself for the content to be found between these covers.

In one sense, this book is a critical history of southwestern archaeology from 1500 to 2005. Lekson presents the evolution of the methods and the theoretical approaches to southwestern archaeology over time. Each punctuation in this evolution seeks to amend the perceived weaknesses of the previous generation. Lekson is no exception, presenting his own systems-thinking theoretical approach to southwestern archaeology as a remedy to the sui generis thinking borne of (among other things) outdated attitudes toward the Pueblos (but carried forward as a theoretical apparatus through inertia even as these attitudes have changed).

In another sense, this book is a reinterpretation of the southwestern archaeological body of evidence dating from before 1500 BC to 1600 AD from Lekson's systems-thinking theoretical perspective. His mantra for this reinterpretation is "Everyone knew everything! No coincidences! Distances can be dealt with!" The result is a reinterpretation that ascribes realistic social attributes to the populations of the southwest throughout time. It is a reinterpretation that incorporates not just the Hohokam, the Anasazi, the Mimbres, the Pueblos - but also the Aztecs and Cahokia and so on as the interconnected elements of a continental social system of systems with ebbs and flows of people and ideas across all regions.

In a third sense, this book is a hypothetical reconstruction of the history of the ancient southwest based upon the reinterpretation that precedes it.
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