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The First North Americans (Ancient Peoples and Places)

An Archaeological Journey

Brian Fagan

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A fascinating illustrated history of North America from first settlement around 15,000 years ago to the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century AD, by a master storyteller and prolific archeological writer


Everyone is familiar with the story of the Founding Fathers of America. But who were the original settlers thousands of years ago, and when and how did they arrive? This is the compelling and little-known story that Brian Fagan recounts, drawing on cutting-edge research in many scientific disciplines, from biology and climatology to ethnohistory and high-tech chemistry and physics.

Fagan describes the controversies over first settlement, which probably occurred towards the end of the Ice Age, and the debates over the routes used as humans moved south into the heart of the continent. He traces the origins and development of the Moundbuilder societies of the Eastern Woodlands, the spectacular Pueblo societies of the Southwest, the flamboyant Mississippian culture of the South and Southeast and the mounds of the ancient city of Cahokia. New research provides particular insights into the spiritual beliefs of Mississippian groups. The book ends with the Algonquian and Iroquoian peoples of the Northeast and St Lawrence Valley, and an epilogue describes the devastating consequences for Native Americans of European contacts.

The First North Americans has been endorsed by a dozen specialists in different aspects of Native American culture.

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'A masterful tapestry of diverse pre-Columbian Native North American societies, life, and history.... An extraordinarily enjoyable work for layperson and student alike’ - Christopher Carr'
Professor of Anthropology, Arizona State University

'Lavishly illustrated ... This succinct authoritative summary is written for students and the general reader by a master storyteller and prolific archaeological writer, and has been endorsed by a dozen specialists in different aspects of Native American culture'
The Historical Association

'A highly readable coverage of an exceedingly rich archaeological heritage'
George R. Milner, Professor of Archaeological Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University

'A sophisticated, wide-ranging analysis … an epic tale, very well told'
Geographical Magazine

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Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 24.1 x 15.9 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Illustrations: 190

Publication date: 21 February 2011

ISBN: 9780500021200

Contents List

Contents: Preface; Part I: Foundations; 1. The First Americans; 2. After Clovis; 3. The Far North: West to East; 4. Foraging the West Coast; 5. Before the Pueblos; 6. People of the Plains; 7. Eastern Woodlands: Nuts, Native Plants and Earthworks; Part II: Apogee; 8. The Far North: Norton, Dorset, and Thule; 9. The West Coast: Not a Garden of Eden; 10. The Southwest: Villages and Pueblos; 11. Eastern Woodlands: The Moundbuilders; 12. Mississippian; 13. The Northeast: Algonquians and Iroquoians; 14. Epilogue; Further Reading; Sources of Illustrations; Index

About the Author

Brian Fagan is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Among his books are Discovery!, Ancient North America, The Complete Ice Age and The Great Archaeologists, all published by Thames & Hudson.