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Book Reviews:
One If by Land, Two if By Sea: Lost World
On the Shelf

Maps:
New geologic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey
Half-scale reproduction of The Map


Book Reviews

Lost World: Rewriting Prehistory — How New Science is Tracing America’s Ice Age Mariners
by Tom Koppel. Atria Books, 2003. ISBN 0 743 45357 3. Hardcover, $26.

 


One If by Land, Two If by Sea
Julie Brigham-Grette

At a recent national meeting I mentioned to a friend and geoarchaeologist that I was reading Lost World by Tom Koppel. I showed him the book's cover with its provocative subtitle, and his response was a quick groan, "Oh, that book!" His response puzzled me at first. Having read the entire book, I now think I understand the context of his disdainful tone.

In the field of archaeology, few topics have been as controversial and thorny as the peopling of the Americas, the subject of Lost World. Few would disagree that the vast ice-free landscapes of Pleistocene Beringia — the Bering Land Bridge — likely provided the essential link between the Eurasian and North American continents. However, what has been controversial for decades is exactly when the new settlers came and how they seemed to have spread out across the Americas so quickly.

Little evidence exists for human occupation in North America before the Clovis people about 11,000 years ago. Yet, hints have existed for years that humans perhaps entered the New World before then, as suggested by archaeological sites such as Bluefish Caves in the Yukon Territory and Meadowcroft Rock Shelter in Pennsylvania. However, it was the migration of early humans into South America, especially as far south as Monte Verde, Chile, by 12,500 radiocarbon years before present that caused most scientists to seriously reexamine the likelihood that early people successfully crossed the Bering Land Bridge prior to or even during the Last Ice Age.

Even more striking are the emerging implications: These early foragers did not follow the infamous ice-free corridor, starting with a migration out of Beringia and down through the tundra plains of Alberta between the retreating Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets. Rather, these early people more likely sought alternate, maritime routes by boat across Beringia's southern edge, following the resource-rich coastal zone all the way into South America. Like an unfinished puzzle, scientific pieces are now falling into place, but there is still much we don't know.

Koppel's Lost World provides a provocative view of the bumpy scientific road leading to the discovery and ongoing investigation of this evidence that early people used a maritime route to migrate to the Americas. Starting with the 1920s and 1930s discovery and establishment of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, Koppel provides a layman's view of the evolution of thought on the peopling of the Americas. Through 18 chapters, he traces the basis of what he calls the "Clovis First paradigm," alongside the earliest discoveries and thinking that early Americans were adapted best to a coastal environment. He intersperses his reflections into the history of the science with entertaining stories of visiting modern scientists at work on archaeological sites located on the coastal islands and mainland of southeast Alaska and British Columbia — the likely routes of coastal immigrants. Featured prominently throughout the book are field excursions with Tim Heaton (University of South Dakota, Vermillion), Jim Dixon (University of Colorado, Boulder) and Heiner Josenhans (Canadian Geological Survey, Halifax), as well as many other scientists.

Koppel delves into the rigors and logistical difficulties of working in the heavily wooded and mountainous terrains of the Pacific Northwest, drawing from his practical experiences and conversations with the scientists onsite. Equally well-told are the frustrations and successes of conducting underwater archaeology and sediment coring. Such arduous work follows the sophisticated ship-based mapping of the seafloor, which identifies submerged coastal environments where early people may have lived. This part of the book is particularly intriguing, providing an honest view of the day-to-day challenges of marine scientists funded for only a few precious days of expensive ship time. Geologists and geophysicists will have to overlook the less-than-rigorous explanations of the interplay between post-glacial rebound and global sea-level change.

Not to be overlooked are the book's references to a number of contentious pre-Clovis sites known throughout the Americas, such as the Pedra Furada Stone Shelter in Brazil and Taima-Taima in Venezuela. Although not as widely accepted as Monte Verde for having firm evidence of human occupation, these sites provide important clues that much remains to be uncovered concerning possible earlier migrations of humans into the Americas.

Controversies in science almost always involve an imbalance of academic reputations and personal ego. Koppel does not shy away from this dogfight, but provides an interpretation of the personalities and issues pitting the Clovis First paradigm supporters against those researching the likelihood of coastal migrations into the Americas. No doubt this aspect of the book is why my colleague first gave me his less-than-enthusiastic response; it is also the only aspect I found to be less-than-flattering, especially to some of the interviewed scientists.

While it is unfortunate that several comments made it into the book as if taken from informal conversations off the record, I believe Lost World at least attempts to convey the human drama that so often plays out around controversial ideas in the scientific community. Like it or not, controversy has always driven science in positive directions, but it should never get personal. Comments in the book referring to well-known individuals as "pompous" and accusing them of "flimsy reasoning and cavalier treatment of scientific facts" left me feeling like I had eaten some bad food.

Nevertheless, I strongly encourage you to read the book and form your own opinions about the issues and controversies. Personally I find the coastal migration evidence an exciting new direction in archaeology and geoarchaeology, one that will necessarily require stronger ties to marine and coastal geologists interested in sea-level change. Having nearly sold out recently, this book received a five-star rating from reporting readers at Amazon.com. Leave it to the rest of us to get the public as enthusiastic about books concerning other aspects of the earth sciences.


Brigham-Grette is a professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She has been conducting research on the paleoenvironmental and sea-level history of Beringia for more than 20 years.

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On the Shelf

The Early Settlement of North America, by Gary Haynes. Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0 521 52463 6. Paperback, $29.00.

As the debate rages over who the first Americans were, and when and how they arrived, anthropologist and paleoecologist Gary Haynes provides a thorough examination of the Clovis people, thought to be among the first Americans. Haynes begins his discussion with background on the fluted spear points that have come to represent Clovis culture and a history of the latest research on the peopling of the Americas. He then delves much further into the archaeological record of the settlers and their society, based on the artifacts left behind by this migrating culture, and incorporates biological, ecological and archaeological data to present a comprehensive history of the Clovis people.


Maps
U.S. Geological Survey Maps

MF-2416. NEW MEXICO. Geologic map of the La Mesita Negra Se quadrangle, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, by R.R. Shroba, R.A. Thompson, D.L. Schmidt, S.F. Personius, Florian Maldonado, and T.R. Brandt. 2003. Scale 1:24,000. Two color sheets 53 X 33 inches with 12-page text. Available for $40.00 from USGS Information or free online.

MF-2420. WASHINGTON. Maps and data from a trench investigation of the Utsalady Point fault, Whidbey Island, Washington, by S.Y. Johnson, A.R. Nelson, S.F. Personius, R.E. Wells, H.M. Kelsey, B.L. Sherrod, Koji Okumura, Rich Koehler, Robert Witter, Lee-Ann Bradley, and D.J. Harding. 2003. One color sheet 83 X 36 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free online.

MF-2424. ALASKA. Map of glacial limits and possible refugia in the southern Alexander Archipelago, Alaska, during the late Wisconsin glaciation, by P.E. Carrara, T.A. Ager, J.F. Baichtal, and D.P. VanSistine. 2003. Scale 1:500,000. One color sheet 53 X 33 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free online.

I-2600-G. ANTARCTICA. Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Saunders Coast area, Antarctica: 1972-1997, by Charles Swithinbank, R.S. Williams, J.G. Ferrigno, K.M. Foley, C.A. Hallam, and C.E. Rosanova. Prepared in cooperation with the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. 2003. Scale 1:1,000,000. One color sheet 43 X 37 inches with 9-page text. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2676-A. MASSACHUSETTS. Sea floor topography of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, Massachusetts, by P.C. Valentine, J.L. Baker, and T.S. Unger. Prepared in cooperation with NOAA. 2003. Scale 1:60,000. One color sheet 33 X 57.5 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2676-B. MASSACHUSETTS. Sun-illuminated sea floor topography of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, Massachusetts, by P.C. Valentine, T.S. Unger, and J.L. Baker. Prepared in cooperation with NOAA. 2003. Scale 1:60,000. One color sheet 33 X 57.5 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2676-C. MASSACHUSETTS. Backscatter intensity and sun-illuminated sea floor topography of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, Massachusetts, by P.C. Valentine, J.L. Baker, and T.S. Unger. Prepared in cooperation with NOAA. 2003. Scale 1:60,000. One color sheet 38 X 57.5 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2731-A. MASSACHUSETTS. Sea floor topography of quadrangle 1 in western Massachusetts Bay offshore of Boston, Massachusetts, by Bradford Butman, Laura Hayes, W.W. Danforth, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Scale 1:25,000. One color sheet 28 X 34 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services or free online.

I-2731-B. MASSACHUSETTS. Shaded relief and sea floor topography of quadrangle 1 in western Massachusetts Bay offshore of Boston, Massachusetts, by Bradford Butman, Laura Hayes, W.W. Danforth, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Scale 1:25,000. One color sheet 28 X 35 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2731-C. MASSACHUSETTS. Backscatter intensity, shaded relief, and sea floor topography of quadrangle 1 in western Massachusetts Bay offshore of Boston, Massachusetts, by Bradford Butman, Laura Hayes, W.W. Danforth, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Scale 1:25,000. One color sheet 28 X 35 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2732-A. MASSACHUSETTS. Seafloor topography of quadrangle 2 in western Massachusetts Bay offshore of Boston, Massachusetts, by Bradford Butman, Laura Hayes, W.W. Danforth, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Scale 1:25,000. One color sheet 40 X 33 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

To order USGS maps: Contact USGS Information Services, P.O. Box 25286, Denver, Colo. 80225. Phone: 888-ASK-USGS (888/275-8747).


Randall Orndorff compiles the Maps section and is the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. Email: rorndorf@usgs.gov.

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Half-scale reproduction of The Map

The British Geological Survey has just published a reproduction of William Smith's 1815 "map that changed the world," as described by Simon Winchester. At its original scale of 5 miles to the inch, the map would have been 8 feet long by 6 feet wide if it had ever been published as a single sheet. Due to this large size and the size of the printing presses in the early 19th century, the original map was published in 15 sections, each folded into six panels. The survey has scanned the original panels held in its library and digitally removed the joins. The new reproduction is at half scale — 10 miles to the inch — and is color-matched to the original. To order the reproduction, visit www.geologyshop.com. And to read about visiting Smith's original map, visit our online travel feature, Travels in Geology: www.geotimes.org/Travels.html.
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