Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North America

Overview


Once, no humans lived on the continent of North America; then they began to journey, the first migrants arriving perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
 
When a skeleton from long-ago centuries is discovered, scientists want to study it for information about the person’s life and death, about her or his time and place in history. Sometimes artists are asked to reconstruct faces from the past using copies ...
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Overview


Once, no humans lived on the continent of North America; then they began to journey, the first migrants arriving perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
 
When a skeleton from long-ago centuries is discovered, scientists want to study it for information about the person’s life and death, about her or his time and place in history. Sometimes artists are asked to reconstruct faces from the past using copies of their skulls. Then these nameless, unknown people can be "brought back to life"--remembered, and honored.

Now, when their skeletons are discovered, their stories can be told.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An absorbing introduction to anthropological facial reconstruction . . . Impressive and fascinating."
Kirkus, starred review

"Deem's writing is riveting and his research deep."
Booklist, starred review

"Clear prose, pleasing layout, and crisp photographs combined with subject matter rarely explored in history books make this book an excellent choice for most collections."
School Library Journal, starred review

"A strong choice for independent reading, this will also be a boon to social studies and science teachers in search of classroom readalouds."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Children's Literature - Kasey Giard
When scientists discover skeletons from centuries past, they want to use the remains to identify things about the culture and people of that time period. Sometimes the skeletons themselves can provide details to the scientists. Sometimes specialized artists are asked to create facial reconstruction using models of the skulls found. Using more than thirty markers, these artists can create a clay replica to show what the person may have looked like. The clay replicas are painted to look more realistic and sometimes a wig is added. These are often displayed in museums. Faces from the Past explains the process of facial reconstruction and follows the stories of the reconstruction of faces in several important discoveries in North America, including the remains of a man who lived more than ten thousand years ago. Though some of the details are grim, this book provides valuable insight into the process of facial reconstruction and its purpose. Author James Deem masterfully weaves together the history of each forgotten person or group and shows how the reconstruction process brings those stories to life again. Recommended. Reviewer: Kasey Giard
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—Beginning with the startling photograph of a partially reconstructed face on the cover, this book effectively brings to life the people of North America forgotten by the history books. Beginning with the oldest existing mummified human remains-a man discovered in Spirit Cave, Nevada, dated to approximately 10,500 years ago-Deem moves forward chronologically to burials belonging to the Monacan tribe of Virginia (1000–1400), a French sailor traveling with La Salle (1686), the forgotten burial of a woman in colonial New York (1742), a rediscovered slave burial ground (1750–1790), and a Mexican soldier killed shortly after the Alamo (1836). He discusses the poor buried in an Almshouse Cemetery (1826–1926), a Buffalo Soldier (1865), and, finally, Chinese Miners in Wyoming (1881). Each chapter highlights the hardships endured by these early Americans as documented by the bones they left behind and interpreted by anthropologists. A thorough explanation of the archaeological techniques used to exhume these forgotten remains is combined with the known history of each period to create a clear picture of the difficult lives the people uncovered in these forgotten burials faced. Further humanizing these forgotten people are the careful facial reconstructions painstakingly rendered by sculptors whose careful, scientific process is outlined in fascinating detail. Deem tactfully addresses the issue of excavating and displaying human remains and gives an emotional resonance to the lives of these early Americans through the inclusion of poems exploring some of the painful aspects of American history. Clear prose, pleasing layout, and crisp photographs combined with subject matter rarely explored in history books make this book an excellent choice for most collections.—Caroline Tesauro, Radford Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing introduction to anthropological facial reconstruction. Deem introduces five particular individuals and four other specific burial sites in North America where remains and archaeological contexts offer clues to the identities of the dead. He explores how people who were poor or enslaved or at war lost their lives in ways that left them forgotten or unknown. Seeing their faces reconstructed from the skull remains is compelling and moving in and of itself and provides a vehicle for us to understand more deeply who they might have been when alive. From the remains of Nevada's Spirit Cave Man, discovered in the 1940s (and in the 1990s realized to be 10,500 years old) to the burial grounds of poor and enslaved people in New York and immigrant Chinese miners in Wyoming, Deem's straightforward prose and consistently precise and respectful approach make this exceptionally readable as history as well as science. The photos, especially of the skulls, casts, masks and diagrams used in the work of reconstruction, are clear and sharp. Diagrams and archival photos are also provided. Sidebars offer additional information and sometimes serve as segues to historical accounts that expand on the narratives, though the book's design means that readers must occasionally jump past this supplementary material over a page turn in order to follow the narrative. Extensive, comprehensive backmatter includes detailed acknowledgments as well as footnotes and sources for further inquiry. Impressive and fascinating. (Nonfiction. 11-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547370248
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/20/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 978,995
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1190L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


James M. Deem is the author of numerous books for young readers, including 3 NB of Julian Drew, Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Rediscovery of the Past, and Faces From the Past. Mr. Deem lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
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