Fossil Legends of the First Americans

£14.95

Available for Pre-order. Due June 2023.
Fossil Legends of the First Americans Author: Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: Princeton University Press
string(3) "488"
Pages: 488 Illustrations and other contents: 100 b/w illus. 1 table. 6 maps. Language: English ISBN: 9780691245614 Categories: ,

The burnt-red badlands of Montana’s Hell Creek are a vast graveyard of the Cretaceous dinosaurs that lived 68 million years ago. Those hills were, much later, also home to the Sioux, the Crows, and the Blackfeet, the first people to encounter the dinosaur fossils exposed by the elements. What did Native Americans make of these stone skeletons, and how did they explain the teeth and claws of gargantuan animals no one had seen alive? Did they speculate about their deaths? Did they collect fossils? Beginning in the East, with its Ice Age monsters, and ending in the West, where dinosaurs lived and died, this richly illustrated and elegantly written book examines the discoveries of enormous bones and uses of fossils for medicine, hunting magic, and spells. Well before Columbus, Native Americans observed the mysterious petrified remains of extinct creatures and sought to understand their transformation to stone. In perceptive creation stories, they visualized the remains of extinct mammoths, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and marine creatures as Monster Bears, Giant Lizards, Thunder Birds, and Water Monsters. Their insights, some so sophisticated that they anticipate modern scientific theories, were passed down in oral histories over many centuries. Drawing on historical sources, archaeology, traditional accounts, and extensive personal interviews, Adrienne Mayor takes us from Aztec and Inca fossil tales to the traditions of the Iroquois, Navajos, Apaches, Cheyennes, and Pawnees. Fossil Legends of the First Americans represents a major step forward in our understanding of how humans made sense of fossils before evolutionary theory developed.

Weight0.674975 kg

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"Mayor's book is a fascinating exploration of how Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island held, and still hold, knowledge of fossils. Indigenous peoples observed the remains of enormous creatures found embedded in our land-from dinosaurs to giant buffalo-and integrated these findings into our ways of knowing. Mayor's coupling of Indigenous stories of legendary beings to specific fossils, bone beds, and species makes this a must-read for anyone who thinks that the wisdom held in Indigenous oral traditions is anything less than science."---Kent Monkman, award-winning Cree visual artist "Mayor the storyteller relishes the opportunity to provide fascinating insights, but she shines most in her ability to stitch together a rich and varied body of oral history grounded in natural history. . . . Mayor clearly thrives at the intersection of science and folklore."---Bryn Nelson, Newsday "Marshaling the array of evidence available from scholarly and popular works, and contributing her own research, Mayor shows that far from ignoring fossils, many Native American groups took great notice of them and developed elaborate myths to explain their origin. . . . Though Mayor is careful not to homogenize native myths, she does note that virtually all of them exhibit a sense of 'deep time,' as geologists call it: an awareness that the world has existed for far longer than humans have walked it."---Eric A. Powell, Archaeology "Fossil Legends of the First Americans presents an interesting, intriguing and informative text, written in a fun, accessible way that will appeal to a wide audience, without scaring off the scientific community. The manner in which fossils legends and Native American tales are dealt with, is as original. . . . Adrienne Mayor has based her book on a substantial amount of relevant, up-to-date and to-the-point research data, and as such commands the reader's indulgence."---C. van Kooten, PaleoArchaeology "Through remarkably wide-ranging research, Mayor has recovered the fascinating story of how various tribes encountered and interpreted dinosaur bones and other remains of early life. . . . [She] illuminates the surprisingly relevant views of early peoples confronting evidence of prehistoric life. . . . This pioneering work replaces cultural estrangement with belated understanding." * Booklist * "Few books have had such an influence on my thinking as Adrienne Mayor's book on fossil legends of the New World. For one thing, it invites one to ask how anyone can make old stories about old bones both so interesting and so worthwhile. . . . What Mayor has done is astonishing. She has been so thorough that it's difficult to imagine anyone ever writing a more definitive book on her subject. . . . A hundred years from now, this book will surely continue to be read, consulted, and mined for data. I would not want to be a piece of data seeking to escape her attention. . . . Mayor not only shows how these stories cast light on cultural history but also demonstrates repeatedly that they anticipated many of the views of modern scientists."---Paul Barber, Journal of American Folklore

Author Biography

Adrienne Mayor's books include The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times. She is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University.