Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Great Journey

The Great Journey: Peopling the Americas
© 1987 Brian Fagan
288 pages

Fourth grade history was most memorable for me, for it was that year that we learned local history. Because Alabama was home to at least four native populations before the arrival of Europeans, we learned a bit about their cultures and I've had a lingering interest ever since. This book addresses how the first Americans arrived in the western hemisphere and how they lived. Fagan begins with European colonization and subsequent rising interest in how long people had lived in the "New World". He then tracks developing and diverging theories on how the Americas were "peopled", taking a break to caution the reader that there is still much we do not know. Half of the book is spent in "establishing" phase, but after that we follow the expansion of human populations across the continents -- although Fagan never makes the leap to Cuba. There's a lot of information here on how pre-city-dwelling people might have lived: Fagan writes at length on stoneworking, for instance, bringing to mind the Earth's Children series. Although there is a lot of information here that is quite interesting, I thought the book was somewhat...dry in parts. I suppose I've been spoiled by narratives, while this is more of a straightforward account.

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