Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226293226 Published November 2015
E-book $10.00 to $55.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226293363 Published November 2015 Also Available From

The Great Paleolithic War

How Science Forged an Understanding of America's Ice Age Past

David J. Meltzer

The Great Paleolithic War

David J. Meltzer

680 pages | 18 halftones, 9 tables | 7 x 10 | © 2015
Cloth $55.00 ISBN: 9780226293226 Published November 2015
E-book $10.00 to $55.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226293363 Published November 2015
Following the discovery in Europe in the late 1850s that humanity had roots predating known history and reaching deep into the Pleistocene era, scientists wondered whether North American prehistory might be just as ancient. And why not? The geological strata seemed exactly analogous between America and Europe, which would lead one to believe that North American humanity ought to be as old as the European variety. This idea set off an eager race for evidence of the people who might have occupied North America during the Ice Age—a long, and, as it turned out, bitter and controversial search.
           
In The Great Paleolithic War, David J. Meltzer tells the story of a scientific quest that set off one of the longest-running feuds in the history of American anthropology, one so vicious at times that anthropologists were deliberately frightened away from investigating potential sites. Through his book, we come to understand how and why this controversy developed and stubbornly persisted for as long as it did; and how, in the process, it revolutionized American archaeology.
Review Quotes
New Books Network
"Meltzer's new book is a meticulous study of the controversy over human antiquity in America, a dispute that transformed North American archaeology as a practice and discipline, tracing it from 1862-1941. The Great Paleolithic War traces the heated and multi-disciplinary debates over the existence of a Pleistocene human antiquity in North America. Meltzer’s book is a thick history that introduces readers not only to the major conceptual, epistemological, and methodological issues at stake in the controversy, but also to the figures who debated the nature and scope of human antiquity in America. Anyone with an interest in the history of archaeology or the study of human origins should check it out!"
Antiquity
"Meltzer is at the forefront of research into the colonization and early settlement of North America. This book is the outcome of immense scholarship and meticulous research. It is also a labor of love; this is not a dry catalogue of past errors and triumphs, but a gripping account of the protagonists and the issues, claims, and counter-claims with which they grappled. This is not only a great read, and a brilliant piece of scholarship, but also a mirror image of what our European faced (and still face) when documenting our deep past."
American Antiquity
"Meltzer has produced a magnum opus—a 700-page, exhaustively researched and documented history of 'The Great Paleolithic War'. It is brilliantly written with his characteristic wit and gentle humor. It is a history of competition, jealousy, spite, irreconcilable interpretations, and sometimes grudging agreement, between and among members of various warring cliques of scientists. In sum, Meltzer has given us a superb, beautifully documented and elegant essay on the sociology of knowledge-making in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American archaeology and Pleistocene geology."
Endeavour
"Meltzer’s book sheds new light on an important controversy that influenced the development of the study of the ancient past. The Great Paleolithic War not only provides a detailed and well-grounded intellectual history of North American archeology, but it can also be read as an epistemological laboratory in which it is possible to explore the different epistemologies that constrain and expand the human deep past."
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
"Meltzer has obviously been hard at work on this book for many years. His erudition and his care show through. To call his bibliography extensive is an understatement; he has read and quotes from books, journals, and the papers of even minor participants. Metzler provides a model for how others might well analyze the resolution of controversies. He mastered several sciences in order to describe the interactions as well as the ambitions of many men as they argued bitterly. Even those not particularly drawn to archaeology can profit from reading this book and examining its construction."
American Anthropologist
"In this volume, Meltzer weaves...an elegant tapestry and highly engaging chronicle of the rise and fall of the American Paleolithic and the ultimate resolution of the co-existence of early Native Americans with the late Ice Age bestiary. [In this] richly documented volume, I find his summary of the role(s) of geology in resolving the Paleolithic question to be both insightful and singularly impressive."
Matthew Goodrum, Virginia Tech
"Meltzer’s book is the first detailed and comprehensive historical examination of the scientific debate over whether humans were present in the Americas during the Pleistocene, and the only history that fully recognizes and adequately treats the extent to which this debate played out not only among archaeologists, but involved complex interactions between archeologists, glacial geologists, Pleistocene paleontologists, and anthropologists. This is an important and much-needed contribution that fills a notable gap in the history of anthropology and archeology."
Curtis M. Hinsley, author of The Lost Itinerary of Frank Hamilton Cushing
"Meltzer has given us the most detailed historical interpretation of the tumultuous, half-century search for Paleolithic man in America that we are ever likely to receive. Through patient archival digging and first-hand field knowledge, archaeologist and historian Meltzer weighs and balances the evidence--archaeological, paleontological, geological, and most importantly psychological--to reveal finally his critical conclusion: status matters. Controversy in science is settled chiefly when those most competent to judge, and in position to do so, decide it is time to settle it. A superb achievement, with implications far beyond the arcanae of archaeology."
Ronald L. Numbers, University of Madison - Wisconsin
"Readers clinging to the notion that science is a peaceful pursuit of the truth will be shocked by the story told in David J. Meltzer’s The Great Paleolithic War, which depicts science 'red in tooth and claw.' Denouncing one another as fakers, frauds, and charlatans, American archaeologists, anthropologists, glacial geologists, and vertebrate paleontologists fought to ascertain when humans first appeared in North America. Focusing on the controversies between the 1870s, when the debate erupted, and the late 1920s, when discoveries in New Mexico resolved it in favor of a Pleistocene antiquity of humans in the New World, the distinguished archaeologist Meltzer provides a riveting account of this momentous episode in the history of American science."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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