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It was long axiomatic among archeologists that the prehistoric Clovis people of the Southwest were the first people in the Americas, arriving 12,000 years ago. Meltzer synthesizes controversial recent evidence that humans arrived in the Americas earlier than that and may not all have come across the Bering Strait from Asia. Meltzer also conveys well the heated debates among archeologists on this crucial subject (an argument among experts after examining evidence in South American turns rather ugly). Drawing on archeology, linguistics, geology, genetics and other disciplines, anthropologist Meltzer (Search for the First Americans) explores that evidence, as well as what we know about the Clovis people, such as evidence regarding Ice Age terrain indicating prehistoric peoples' ability to adapt to an uninhabitable and unfamiliar continent, and the speed with which they might have moved across the new world. Sometimes dense and academic, often lively and occasionally bemused, Meltzer's study-part detective story and part archeological research-is stimulating and sometimes tantalizingly controversial. 16 color and 64 b&w illus. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.