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

By David Hurst Thomas | Go to book overview

15 BREAKTHROUGH AT FOLSOM

DESPITE OPPOSITION FROM Smithsonian archaeologists, many Americans remained intrigued by several well-publicized archaeological finds hinting that the First Americans might have arrived sometime during the Pleistocene--a geological epoch that began two million years ago, during which mammoths and mastodons, giant bison, and saber-tooth cats roamed across a landscape dominated by massive ice sheets. Some accepted these conclusions at face value, arguing that--sometime within the last 25,000 years--late Pleistocene people must have hunted the giant game animals that once populated America. With few exceptions, however, these "early man advocates" were amateur relic and fossil collectors--impassioned, committed, but increasingly marginalized. They were countered at every turn by the big guns of nineteenth-century American archaeology--establishment men well positioned in the major museums of the land--who contended that American Indians probably arrived in America no earlier than the Moundbuilders, Pueblo Indians, and the Classic Maya, all of whom left easily recognizable archaeological traces dating from the last couple of thousand years.

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