When the Land was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology

When the Land was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology
$9.99 or kindleunlimited
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Horseshoe Press
Publication Year: 1996/2016
ISBN: 016
Archaeology is a tale of peopling that in North America extends our cultural perspective back at least twelve thousand years, a story that Sharman Apt Russell brings to vibrant, contentious life. A history of archaeology in America, written with clear-eyed wit and grace, Russell's book takes the study of our ancestors out of the museum and shows us the immediate, human implications of our forays into the past. Whether exploring the theory that humans caused the extinction of Pleistocene mega-fauna, or the demands for the repatriation of Native American remains, or the meaning of burial mounds in Ohio, Russell keeps in clear view the idea that there are multiple ways of examining the past. She interviews an array of characters who have been instrumental in reshaping modern archaeology and speaks to those, such as Pawnee activists fighting for the return of ancestral remains or a Navajo archaeologist at odds with his people's prohibition against handling the dead, who continue to wrestle with the nature and practice of archaeology today.
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Overview

Amazon.com Review

Digging up the past creates a number of controversies. Is archaeology a form of desecration? Are archaeological sites resources that must be protected and conserved? How do the people engaged in archaeology deal with these controversies? When the Land Was Young is an expedition into current archaeology issues. Sharman Apt Russell traveled the United States visiting sites and talking to archaeologists, and her reports make for engaging and intelligent writing about the past and how we view it. She explores the conflicts between science and respect for the dead with keen insight; her observations are eloquent and thought provoking. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

At one time, American archeologists were insensitive, racist and sexist, says the author. Only after WWII did they begin to explore social behavior, settlement patterns and site ecology, showing an interest in living people in order to understand the past. Russell (Kill the Cowboy) finds this shift in perspective the most significant change in the field. Her lively conversations with present-day archeologists present a wide range of opinions on such topics as earliest settlement, mammalian extinction and feminist views of archeology. Russell discusses the American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which enabled Indian skeletons and sacred artifacts to be returned to their tribes. Finally, Russell describes cultural resource management, a program for historical preservation. She offers an exciting portrait of archeology today.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Russell (Kill the Cowboy: A Battle of Mythology in the New West, LJ 5/15/93) moves from personal observations of petroglyphs near her home in southwestern New Mexico to a consideration of various issues in American archaeology today, based on her travels to sites and interviews with specialists in the field. What is most appealing about her book is her ability to convey a sense of immediacy as well as awe at the presence of the past at historic sites: “Holding my sherd, I feel the substance of time, a place I can travel to while standing still. I heft its weight. This moment is a thousand years ago and a thousand years ago is this moment.” Excellent, too, is Russell’s presentation of the shift that has occurred with the 1990 passage of a law that gives Native Americans the right to reappropriate skeletal remains and sacred artifacts, the impact of more Native Americans entering archaeology as a profession, and the urgent need for archaeologists to work out a relationship with Native American leaders who are opposed to excavations of their cultural sites. Russell’s work is thoughtful, beautifully written, and well documented. A good way for lay readers to become more informed.?Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Russell has examined a variety of issues pertaining to life in the Southwest in her previous books, Songs of the Fluteplayer (1991) and Kill the Cowboy (1993). Here she greatly expands her geographic scope as she presents a lively, confident, and free-flowing history of archaeology in America. Imaginatively journalistic, Russell offers vivid portraits of archaeologists, then turns their theories about the first human migrations to North America, the origins of agriculture, and the evolution of culture into dramatic, even visionary scenarios. All too often, archaeologists have neglected the human factor, concentrating solely on artifacts and various methods of determining chronology. Russell addresses the ramifications of this shortcoming with wit and sensitivity, then roots out the insidious, perhaps unconscious sexism that skewed so many early studies. Contemporary archaeologists, she reports, are much more aware of how intrinsic women were to the evolution of all facets of civilization, especially the cultivation of plant species. Russell explains both sides of a number of intriguing controversies and describes various sites across the country, including earthworks in Ohio and Illinois, with keen interpretative finesse. Donna Seaman –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A leisurely, recondite crawl through various conundrums besetting today’s archaeologists, elegantly handled by one of their own. Russell (Kill the Cowboy, 1993, etc.) loves archaeology, “the tale of our first awkward relationship, the wrestling match of humans and the natural world,” and when she stumbles across a sherd of Mogollon plainware, a fragment of Mimbres pottery, a 3,000-year-old piece of cordage, she feels the thrill of time travel, of making a distant connection. Then she replaces the relic where she found it; that little piece of history needs, she believes, to remain in situ, so that others in the future may feel the weight of its place and context–museums won’t do, nor will the mantlepieces of deep-pocketed collectors. The notion of “context” pervades this book. What does it mean to take artifacts from their location? Who do they belong to? What do they lose by being separated from their site? And, as much of the book has to do with the remains of Native American cultures in the southwestern US, what are the specific questions of accountability archaeologists should consider when they dig up a grave site in that region? The remains of the people uncovered are, the Zunis believe, still sentient, still voyaging, seeking their next stage. The repatriation of native remains is only one of Russell’s concerns. Her thoughts dance every which way: She explores the problems of “geofacts” and the foibles of quick diagnosis, the pleasures of cave archaeology and paleofecal specimens, ancient roadways and their heavenly orientation, the cultural and ideological baggage that archaeologists bring to their profession. All of this is presented with wonderful facility, a kind of dreamily dilettanish innocence, making these rather rarified concerns the stuff of everday life. Agile, cerebral, ruminative, entirely satisfying. — Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“[Russell] presents a lively, confident, and free-flowing history of archaeology in America. Imaginatively journalistic, Russell offers vivid portraits of archeologists, then turns their theories. . . into dramatic, even visionary scenarios. . . . Russell explains both sides of a number of intriguing controversies and describes various sites across the country, including earthworks in Ohio and Illinois, with keen interpretative finesse.”—Booklist

(Booklist )

“What is most appealing about her book is her ability to convey a sense of immediacy as well as awe at the presence of the past at historic sites. . . . Russell’s work is thoughtful, beautifully written, and well documented. A good way for lay readers to become more informed.”—Library Journal

(Library Journal )

About the Author

Sharman Apt Russell is the author of Kill the Cowboy, also available in a Bison Books edition. She lives in the Mimbres Valley in New Mexico.
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