Bones: Discovering the First Americans

Bones: Discovering the First Americans

Elaine Dewar

Language: English

Pages: 640

ISBN: 0786713771

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Award-winning journalist Elaine Dewar explores new terrain with Bones, uncovering evidence that challenges the conventional wisdom on how the Americas were peopled in early history. In her probing investigation, Dewar travels from Canada's Mackenzie River to the Brazilian state of Piaui, from the offices of the Smithsonian Institution to the Washington state riverbank where the remains of Kennewick man were found. Dewar captures a tale of hard science and human folly where the high stakes include professional reputations, lucrative grants, fame, and the resting places of wandering spirits.

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speeding across a pond. The plane flew through snow and wind and landed with a thump at Atlanta. My seatmate was a physicist and computer architecture specialist, born and trained in Israel, living in Atlanta, who wanted her daughter to study in Montreal. Her own doctorate was an attempt to unify the irreducible randomness of quantum mechanics with the broad calculations of relativity theory. (“If I’d done it,” she said, “you’d have heard of me.”) We talked for a long time about conservatism in

are some people’s teeth shovel-shaped, and others not? Why do some have molars with three roots, and others only two? Why do some faces slant forward from the jaw to the nose, while others are flat? Why have hominid foreheads changed over the last million years? What are the forces that cause human features to morph, and how many generations does it take? What are the specific influences of gene flow (which is what physical anthropologists are pleased to call fruitful sex), adaptation to the

northeast, where no one had thought to look for them. But how could a theory about the time it takes for a language stock to diffuse be tested? Nichols had no time to explain the theoretical underpinnings of her work: she just asserted that the use of radical headmarking on the eastern side of the Americas appeared to be about 18,000 years old. “I infer,” she said, “it is pre-Glacial.” She concluded that since the languages on the west side of the Americas were younger, they had come into the

notice odd things, Dansie explained. A cold draft would flow through the museum when there were no doors open. Something would be seen out of the corner of an eye. Finally, someone took a picture of something hovering. “Then the Polaroid disappeared—it had the ghost in it,” said Dansie. “Our Anglo staff, the only ghost experiences they’ve had are Anglo ghosts. I couldn’t help wondering about what the old lady said. Science isn’t the only way to answer what’s true about the world. It doesn’t mean

MacNeish was assigned to dig them up. He had Navajo people working with him. The second day on this job he “flipped out an Indian bone.” The Navajo took off. “Last time we saw a Navajo,” he said. “They had nothing to do with any dead. If you died in a hogan, it would be burned. The spirits were there.” This fear had serious consequences. It was well known to the Navajo that people who went into hospital sometimes died there. Hospitals were therefore places filled with restless spirits. Once, the

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