|Publication Date||August 20, 2002|
Archaeologist J. M. Adovasio has spent the last thirty years at the center of one of our most fiery scientific debates: Who were the first humans in the Americas, and how and when did they get there?
H. L. Mencken said that “for every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” We all grew up thinking that the first Americans were a band of hunters who crossed the frozen Bering Strait during the Ice Age some twelve thousand years ago and whose descendants spread to the tip of South America in five hundred years. Now, in no small part because of J. M. Adovasio’s work, our notions of who first peopled the Western Hemisphere, how they arrived, and how they lived have been forever changed.
Adovasio begins The First Americans by putting his work into historical context, from the earliest European fantasies about where the Native Americans came from to the birth of modern archaeology and the origins of the dogma his own work has debunked. But at its heart, his book is the story of the revolution in thinking that he and his peers have brought about, and the firestorm it has ignited. As he writes, “The work of lifetimes has been put at risk, reputations have been damaged, an astounding amount of silliness and even profound stupidity has been taken as serious thought, and always lurking in the background of all the argumentation and gnashing of tenets has been the question of whether the field of archaeology can ever be pursued as a science.”