Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity

By David Hurst Thomas | Go to book overview

13.
THE SMITHSONIAN TAKES ON ALL COMERS

NINETEENTH-CENTURY ANTHROPOLOGISTS eventually discovered that many of the negative characteristics attributed to American lndians-- particularly their nomadic non-agricultural subsistence and absence of technical achievements, such as weaving and the use of metals--derived not from an inherent backwardness but from disruptions brought about by the European invasion. Once anthropologists began to understand the impact of the European invasion on Native America, they recognized that Indians were excellent candidates for having built the ancient American earthworks.

During the 1850s, Samuel Haven, librarian of the American Antiquarian Society, vigorously attacked the Moundbuilder theory, arguing that "the flint utensils of the Age of Stone lie upon the surface of the ground. . . . The peoples that made and used them have not yet entirely disappeared." In other words, American Indians of the remote past were not very different from Indians in the "ethnographic present." Although his monumental Archaeology of the United States, published in 1856, is today viewed as "a model of reasoned de

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