A Prehistory of North America

A Prehistory of North America

A Prehistory of North America

A Prehistory of North America

Synopsis

A Prehistory of North Americacovers the ever-evolving understanding of the prehistory of North America, from its initial colonization, through the development of complex societies, and up to contact with Europeans.
This book is the most up-to-date treatment of the prehistory of North America. In addition, it is organized by culture area in order to serve as a companion volume to "An Introduction to Native North America." It also includes an extensive bibliography to facilitate research by both students and professionals.

Excerpt

Over the years, there have been numerous treatments of North American archaeology and prehistory; for example, Haven’s Archaeology of the United States … (1856), Baldwin’s Ancient America … (1871), Thomas’s Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology (1898), Willey’s An Introduction to American Archaeology (1966), encyclopedias (e.g., Gibbon 1998), a guide to prehistoric sites in North America (D. H. Thomas 1994), and a series of textbooks (Meggars 1972; Snow 1976; Jennings 1989; Fiedel 1992; Fagan 2005a; Neusius and Gross 2007; and Snow 2009). Only the latter three texts remain in print and widely available. Thus, it seemed to me, there was room for a new synthetic treatment of North American prehistory (I was unaware of the Nuesius and Gross book when I began this project in 2000), especially one that would include a more complete coverage of western North America and a treatment of the Southwest that followed the Pecos classificatory system still so widely employed there. In large part, these issues led to my desire to do this book. The literature on the archaeology and prehistory of North America is vast, and it was not possible to consider every area or issue upon which there has been material written. I apologize to those whose important contributions were not included.

The purpose of this book is to provide an up-to-date general overview of the prehistory of North America, from initial colonization by native peoples to the time of contact with Europeans, but not including post-contact archaeology. The first chapter very briefly introduces the fields of prehistory and archaeology, and the next two chapters deal with the peopling of the New World and the Paleoindian Period across North America. The following chapters deal with the Holocene prehistory of the various culture areas. Finally, the last chapter very briefly touches on the fate of native groups at contact, primarily to provide some continuity with the present. The treatment of North American prehistory in this book is admittedly very general; there is simply far too much material to present any detailed discussion of anything. I have tried to simplify complex issues and regional chronologies but provide the necessary references to explore those things more fully.

I choose to use culture areas as the basis of the chapters, rather than the even broader regional or topical approaches of some of the other extant books. I understand that culture areas are just heuristic devices, but teaching is the purpose of this book. Culture areas are widely recognized by most researchers and lay people alike, and much of the extant archaeological literature is organized in that same manner. Culture areas are also used by the multivolume Handbook of North American Indians published by the Smithsonian Institution and in An Introduction to Native North America (Sutton 2008), which can serve as a companion volume to this work. Each chapter . . .

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