IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT NORTH AMERICA by Heather Pringle

IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT NORTH AMERICA

An Archaeological Journey to Forgotten Cultures
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A broad survey of the prehistoric cultures of present-day Canada and the US. 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. (26 b&w photos, 8 pages color photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 17th, 1996
ISBN: 0-471-04237-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




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