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Settlement Of The Americas A New Prehistory Paperback – February 14, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0465076697 ISBN-10: 0465076696

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Settlement Of The Americas A New Prehistory + First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America + The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery (Modern Library Paperbacks)
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Archaeology is radically rewriting American prehistory. Since 1932, when exquisite stone points were first discovered at Clovis in New Mexico, accepted theory has asserted that humans did not begin to populate the New World until the retreat of glaciers that were blocking entry from Asia about 12,000 years ago. Then, in 1997, a group of archaeologists confirmed that objects found preserved in a peat bog in the far south of Chile--stone tools, bones, even chunks of mastodon meat--could securely be dated to at least 12,500 years ago. In The Settlement of the Americas, Thomas D. Dillehay--the archaeologist who excavated this material--gives his reasons for believing that people reached the Americas before the ice sheets moved south more than 20,000 years ago. It is a fascinating detective story based on tantalizingly meager data, one in which logic and a powerful imagination are required to fill vast blank areas in the geography and prehistory of two continents. The author sets the scene at a time when so much water was locked up in glaciers that coastlines were several hundred feet lower than they are now. Scientific studies such as stone-tool technology, linguistics, and genetics are used to build an overwhelming argument. Academic battles can be as bitter as any others, and the author is ruthless in his demolition of rival theories. Every scientist has his own bias, and this study is heavily weighted toward South American evidence, but Dillehay's interpretations appear to be objective and well-argued. The Settlement of the Americas answers basic questions, such as who were the first Americans and how did they colonize an empty land, in an exciting and readable way. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a gripping and groundbreaking new study, University of Kentucky anthropologist Dillehay (Monte Verde: A Late Pleistocene Settlement in Chile) pushes back by at least 1,000 years our estimates of when the New World was first settled. He challenges a long-held beliefAthat the first inhabitants of the Americas were the so-called Clovis people, a big-game-hunting culture who came through North America starting 11,200 years ago and reached South America even later. Drawing on his 20-plus years of research at Monte Verde, in Chile, he argues that South America was inhabited by 12,500 years ago. Indeed, he suggests, there were multiple pre-Clovis migrations to the Americas from several different points in Asia and possibly other parts of the world. Thus, the continent was a land of great cultural diversity at least 11,000 years ago. Dillehay also offers some evidence that these populations were physically as well as culturally diverse; he postulates that late Pleistocene America was the world's first real ethnic melting pot. The first Americans, he argues, do not fit into any of our contemporary categories of race or ethnicity. Writing in accessible but still scientifically rigorous prose, the anthropologist does a good job of supporting his controversial claims with solid radiocarbon dating and other evidence; his passion for and mastery of the topic make for an impressive narrative. Whether or not future scholarship confirms Dillehay's theories, this is a valuable book for anyone interested in archeology, early American settlements or the history of science. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465076696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465076697
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book is suitable for archaeologists and very interested non professionals only.
D. Lincoln
This book is clearly written, well organized, and covers the length and breadth of the topic geographically, technically, and intellectually.
Tony Harper
At first glance this book looks like popular account of the early peopleing of North and South America.
Richard S. Sullivan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Richard S. Sullivan on May 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At first glance this book looks like popular account of the early peopleing of North and South America. It is instead a serious semi-scholarly work -- a polemic if you will -- challenging long held beliefs about the migration of people to the New World.
Dilleyhay is best known for his archeological work at a site in Monte Verde Chile. After nearly 25 years of hard work Dillehay has pushed back the time frame for the earliest migration to around 15000 B.P. and hints that it could be pushed back to 25000 B.P. or even further. Conventional wisdom has held the Clovis people, known by their unique projectile points, were the earliest migrants arriving here around 11000 B.P. Since 1930, says Dillehay, the archeology community has held tenaciously to the Clovis belief and often dismissing any contrary evidence, sometimes with great creativity. His work has now convinced all but the most dedicated Clovisites within the archeological community.
Falling along with the Clovis paradigm is the long held belief of the ethnic origins of the earliest migrants. Dillehay tiptoes about on these issues as they touch on sacred beliefs of current Native Americans and he only briefly discusses these issues at the summation of the book. You can almost hear the little voice inside him saying "Don't go there."
This is not a book for the casual reader. Two of the chapters are chock full of brief discussions on sites, dates, and the Who's Who of current archeology. In the appendix is 25 pages of radiocarbon dates for various sites. There are many arguments concerning bifacial vs unifacial stone tools and their implications. None of the book was over my head though he did expect us to know what obsidian hydration dating was.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Tony Harper on August 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a reader who is well outside any professional understanding of archeology but who is also very interested in the topic of the earliest Americans, I can strongly recommend Dillehay's, The Settlement of the Americas, although the title should perhaps be modified to reflect the emphasis on South America as the focus of study. This book is clearly written, well organized, and covers the length and breadth of the topic geographically, technically, and intellectually. Of particular interest are chapters 10 and 11 which offer creative insights into the mode, tempo, and motivation for the invasion-through-colonization process that must have happened on our side of the world. It is refreshing to have a researcher go beyond the mechanistic data of demography, technology, ecology, etc. and plumb the depths of the cognitive side of our prehistory. Dillehay does this well.
A word of caution though, the dating of many of the sites mentioned is still tentative, but at times the author gives the impression, at least to this reader, that the chronology is written in stone...no pun intended. One has only to read Anna Roosevelt's recent review in Scientific American, as unnecessarily acidic as it was, to get the idea that the branch of the archeological family dealing with the early prehistory of our hemisphere is an intemperate one, expecially concerning temporal matters! Also, a minor criticism could be raised about the quality of the illustrations.
Putting these two criticisms aside, Dillehay has written an exceptional book that is worth the read by anyone interested in the initial colonization of the Americas, and a book whose final chapter, Lingering Questions, will leave the reader pondering the colonization process for some time to come.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Dillehay, from the University of Kentucky, may be the most important American archaeologist of the last half century. He has challenged and may have demolished the "Clovis barrier" -- the cherished and long-held belief of archaeologists that the Clovis big game hunters of 11,200 years ago were the first humans in the Americas. The artifacts Dillehay found at the Monte Verde site in Chile are dated reliably to 12,500 years old -- and possibly much older. This is not pop-archaeology of the "Chariot of the Gods" variety. Dillehay is a professional and has worked at Monte Verde for a quarter of a century.

This book outlines Dillehay's theories as to how the New World was settled, including brief descriptions of his work at Monte Verde. The focus is on the little known archaelogical sites in South America, and there are many of them. The writing is intended for the general reader, although the author gets more than a little technical in discussing bi-facial and uni-facial projectile points, radiocarbon dating, and other topics only barely famiiar to the non-specialist. He describes a large number of old archaeological sites in South America -- and one can get lost in the abundance of detail. Persist! Or skip some of the detail. The last four chapters (of 11) are the most interesting in the book.

As an icon-breaker Dillehay has undergone much abuse for his Monte Verde claims and there is a bit of subtle response and pay-back in this book to his critics. One can perceive anger hidden just below the surface of his plodding scholarly prose. The important question is, of course: Is Dillehay right? I'm not an archaeologist, but I am inclined to think he is -- although I have a few lingering doubts. Why, for example, if people were in the Americas before 11,200 years ago have we found no skeletons and so few indications of their presence?

This is an important book and one that everyone interested in New World archaeology should read.
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