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Journeying from the mosquito-infested forests of the far north to the bleak deserts of the American Southwest, Pringle accompanies leading archaeologists and their crews into the field. At the Bluefish Caves in the northern Yukon, Jacques Cinq-Mars chases down clues to an Ice Age mystery; at the "immense geometric riddle" that is Hopeton Earthworks, Mark Lynott scours the countryside for vestiges of ancient village life; in the thorny wilderness of the Lower Pecos, Solveig Turpin deciphers the enigmatic rock art painted more than 3,000 years ago.
What emerges from Pringle's accounts are surprising portraits of long-lost cultures—the rapacious mariners of southern California who nearly wiped out one of the world's most productive ecosystems; the wealthy nobles of British Columbia who wore salmon-skin shoes and counted their wealth in bottles of salmon oil; the powerful lords of the Mississippi River who won the adoration of their followers with a mysterious medicinal tonic. Equally intriguing are the controversial new theories that the author presents on a host of subjects, from the origins of art and hallucinogenic drugs to the rise of private property, the identities of the earliest New World migrants, and the astonishing extent of trade in prehistoric North America.
Complemented by superb color and black-and-white photographs, In Search of Ancient North America blends incisive science journalism with evocative travel writing to bring the latest archaeological findings and interpretations to light. Delving into the previously unmined saga of this vast continent's lost and extinct cultures, this captivating book is a thrilling invitation to endless discovery.
"Drawing on some of the latest archaeological research, Pringle's book is vivid, witty, and responsible in a field too often filled by cranks and bores. All who are curious about life in North America before the European invasion will find the book a stimulating introduction." — Ronald Wright author of Stolen Continents
"In Search of Ancient North America brings the distant past much closer and its inhabitants almost become neighbors to us once again. A first-rate examination of the mystery and fascination of modern archaeological research in North America." — Farley Mowat author of The People of the Deer
"Captures the essence of what archaeologists are learning about North American prehistory. The book is a pleasure to read and will inspire a new awareness of the importance of the history of North America prior to European contact." — Bruce Trigger author of The Children of Aataentsic
Pringle, a Canadian museum researcher, has had long experience working in the field, experience that she brings to bear in discussing patterns of trade, settlement, and daily life among ancient cultures as diverse as the little-known fishing peoples of Eel Point, Calif., and the heavily studied mound-building peoples of the Ohio River Valley. As a look at the ways in which archaeologists puzzle out problems—for instance, why a seemingly complicated system of class stratification would take root among the technologically simple Keatley Creek salmon fishers of British Columbia—Pringle's book has several virtues. She is adept at discussing how artifactual evidence is weighed and used, and she provides good coverage of Canada, which receives too little attention in survey texts in archaeology. However, she makes a few simplistic claims on matters that are still wide open to debate, arguing, for instance, that a particular Chaco Canyon dwelling was likely used for ceremonial purposes, when most specialists in Southwestern prehistory are busy dismantling the long-held view that the ancient Anasazi were an overly ritualistic people. (Her statement, too, that "archaeology is a hard science" is one most specialists would take issue with.) A larger problem is Pringle's uninspired narrative style, which is not helped by her attempts to provide color ("Rumpled and unshaven, with gold-rimmed glasses, bushy mustache, and long, dark hair combed straight back, the fifty-four-year-old scientist looks every bit the old Yukon hand, a character straight from the pages of Robert Service.")
Purists will object to the lack of coverage of Mexico, which is, of course, part of North America and offers plenty of archaeological problems that would lend themselves to discussion here.
Ultramarine: Eel Point, California.
The Rapture: The Lower Pecos, Texas.
The Nouveaux Riches: Keatley Creek, British Columbia.
Ture Believers: Hopeton Earthworks, Ohio.
Desert Prophets: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Lord of the Black Drink: Cahokia, Illinois.
Killing Fields: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta.
Vale of Tears: Ball Site Ontario.