Following the discovery in Europe in the late 1850s that humanity had roots predating known history and reaching deep into the Pleistocene era, scientists wondered whether North American prehistory might be just as ancient. And why not? The geological strata seemed exactly analogous between America and Europe, which would lead one to believe that North American humanity ought to be as old as the European variety. This idea set off an eager race for evidence of the people who might have occupied North America during the Ice Age-a long, and, as it turned out, bitter and controversial search. In The Great Paleolithic War, David J. Meltzer tells the story of a scientific quest that set off one of the longest-running feuds in the history of American anthropology, one so vicious at times that anthropologists were deliberately frightened away from investigating potential sites. Through his book, we come to understand how and why this controversy developed and stubbornly persisted for as long as it did; and how, in the process, it revolutionized American archaeology.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 680
Weight: 1379 g
Dimensions: 287 x 154 x 43 mm
"Meltzer's new book is a meticulous study of the controversy over human antiquity in America, a dispute that transformed North American archaeology as a practice and discipline, tracing it from 1862-1941. The Great Paleolithic War traces the heated and multi-disciplinary debates over the existence of a Pleistocene human antiquity in North America. Meltzer's book is a thick history that introduces readers not only to the major conceptual, epistemological, and methodological issues at stake in the controversy, but also to the figures who debated the nature and scope of human antiquity in America. Anyone with an interest in the history of archaeology or the study of human origins should check it out!"--New Books Network
"Readers clinging to the notion that science is a peaceful pursuit of the truth will be shocked by the story told in David J. Meltzer's The Great Paleolithic War, which depicts science 'red in tooth and claw.' Denouncing one another as fakers, frauds, and charlatans, American archaeologists, anthropologists, glacial geologists, and vertebrate paleontologists fought to ascertain when humans first appeared in North America. Focusing on the controversies between the 1870s, when the debate erupted, and the late 1920s, when discoveries in New Mexico resolved it in favor of a Pleistocene antiquity of humans in the New World, the distinguished archaeologist Meltzer provides a riveting account of this momentous episode in the history of American science."--Ronald L. Numbers, University of Madison - Wisconsin
"Meltzer's book sheds new light on an important controversy that influenced the development of the study of the ancient past. The Great Paleolithic War not only provides a detailed and well-grounded intellectual history of North American archeology, but it can also be read as an epistemological laboratory in which it is possible to explore the different epistemologies that constrain and expand the human deep past."--Endeavour