An attractive volume digs deeply into stories of ancient American skeletons.
Walker, a Sibert Award winner, and Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, join forces to bring alive the history of Paleoamericans, a term used in the book to mean human remains older than 8,000 years. The narrative focuses on the Kennewick man, a skeleton found in Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, but it also looks at Paleoamerican remains from Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and California. It describes the exhaustive detail in which scientists study the Paleoamerican skeletons, artifacts found with them and excavation sites. Smooth writing, although not as compelling as Walker’s Written in Bone (2009), takes readers through two intensive exams of the Kennewick skeleton done five years apart (Owsley was a member of the second examination team). Juxtaposing the two exams illustrates how new technologies and fresh eyes can change scientists’ understanding of such remains, a major theme throughout the book. Another recurring topic concerns how the Paleoamerican findings shed light on the origins and routes of humans who first settled North America, important questions still unresolved. Color photographs and diagrams with helpful captions extend the text; occasional sidebars expand on topics like bone fractures and radiocarbon dating. The final chapter highlights a fascinating reconstruction of the Kennewick man’s face and head.
A special treat for archaeology buffs. (source notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)