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The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  150 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
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?

At its heart, The First Americans is the story of the revolution in thinking that Adovasio and his fellow archaeologists have brought about, and the firestorm it has ignited. As he writes,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 17th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 2002)
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Scott Rhee
Mar 09, 2014 Scott Rhee rated it really liked it
I am by no means an archaeologist, amateur or otherwise. My wife can attest that I cringe at the prospect of touching anything covered in dirt and grime (and yet I tend to be the one most often found pulling weeds out of our flower bed), so I can only imagine how squeamish and uncomfortable I'd be on an archaeological dig.

I do, however, "dig" the idea of archaeology and find it fascinating. (See what I did there? "Dig" it? Get it? See, what I did was a play on the word "dig", which is… oh, neve
Nov 30, 2011 tea_for_two rated it really liked it
In 1974, archaeologist J.M. Adovasio found two hearths at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter excavation that dated to 13,000 B.C. The only problem was that until Adovasio found those dates, no one though there were humans in the New World, much less living at the edge of a glacier in Pennsylvania, thousands of miles away from the landbridge to Asia. Thus began an academic controversy about the origins of New World colonization that is still raging. The First Americans is an excellent book on what might ...more
Nov 28, 2016 Cheryl marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference  ·  review of another edition
The first bit was intriguing, when he mentioned Clovis Woman as a missing piece. But then she appears in the index never again, and, skimming, is only briefly mentioned in the last chapter. Mostly the book is about people and the history of archaeology, focus on the author's ego. I want more science. Then again, it is quite old, relatively speaking. Maybe I'll find something more up-to-date and more about the actual First Americans.

Btw, there were plenty of pictures - of artifacts and sites. I'd
Michael Laflamme
Dec 29, 2016 Michael Laflamme rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Finally, a no nonsense book about the earliest Americans. The basis and history of all prehistoric American studies right up to the present. It's all here. Sadly, the institutional infighting that has dogged all of American science from its start is also on display here, and well documented.
Jason Boling
Sep 27, 2016 Jason Boling rated it did not like it
I seldmon ever write a review of a book unless it is really good or really bad. Unfortunately, this book is of the latter sort. What started as what one might call popular (layman) archaeology, became less about the actual history or the peopling of the Americas and more about chest beating over how the Clovis First camp persecuted and obstinately refused to acknowledge the author as the undisputed authority on the subject in general and about meticulous technical archaeology in particular based ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This book was really good. I found it at a museum and it really piqued my interest because I took a lot of classes in college that discussed this material, with differing conclusions. I have the most interest in linguistics, how languages spread and changed as people evolved and moved around the world (and still do), which this book touched on a little. The author is an archaeologist who is known for impeccable excavation techniques and also huge knowledge on the role of women in earlier societi ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Penny rated it really liked it
When Dave and I went to Meadowcroft Rock Shelter on 6-3-2011, we purchased this book by the archaeologist/author who worked on this site. The radiocarbon dates for the human artifacts found at this site were about 13,000 years old which were 1,500 years before the earliest accepted date for people to be in the Americas! Later the author found remains from 16,000 years ago. So this is the story of the exciting and controversial research done there since 1973.
The site is awesome to visit too!
Paul Lunger
Oct 13, 2013 Paul Lunger rated it really liked it
J.M. Adovasio & Jake Page's "The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery" is the story of the quest for the origins of the original inhabitants of the American continent. This well researched book covers everything from the early history of man through Clovis & the Meadowcroft rock shelter as well. Each chapter is written in a way that keeps we the reader invested in the research & the discussion of the dates & just how the early Americans populated the cont ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Trenchologist rated it really liked it
Moves at a fair clip once the groundwork is established. Sharp, acerbic, doesn't pull punches and near-literally calls 'bullshit' at least once in the course of the text, this is the kind of guy you want to sit down, have beer with, and just discuss everything. Chock with information based on information based on information, made me glad to have sound paleo-anthro knowledge established, but wouldn't be obscure to those who don't. Honest writing that's self-serving in the best and most relatable ...more
Amanda Spacaj-Gorham
If you have even a mild interest in archeology, you will be glad you read this book. It's an interesting and enjoyably read that sheds light not only on the first evidence of humans in South America (Thousands of years earlier than many in the field will acknowledge) but on the stubbornness of human nature in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.
The thrilling rivalry between archaeologists is not hidden in this book, which elevates it above most scholarly works, in my mind.
Vince Ciaramella
May 05, 2016 Vince Ciaramella rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book on the topic of pre-Clovis America. If you are interested in who were the first people in the American's then this is the book for you. With sites like Meadowcroft, Cactus Hill, Monte Verde and the others who knows what things we'll learn in the years to come.

The only thing I can think of that needs updated is the Kennewick Man which I believe has now been put to bed.
Jan 29, 2008 Ruby rated it it was amazing
If you are in the least bit interested in North American archaeology, this is the book to start with. Written in a fantastic conversation style, but also packed with factual information. Adovasio has been working on the Meadowcroft site, highly controversial, for decades. Placing the first Americans in an area they were not believed to live in yet at 13,000 years ago, it is rife with controversy regarding his methods and ideas. A great read.
Liz De Coster
Jun 02, 2008 Liz De Coster rated it liked it
The first sections of this book, which provided an interesting history of American archeology as well as an archaeological history of America, were by far the better portions. The later sections are clearly more personal for the author, and he often seems bitter and intent on airing grievances of a personal nature.
Aug 22, 2013 Grégoire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: archaeology
A pity the book was so badly translated to portuguese. Every page or so, you find yourself wondering what the original text really was. Very frustrating, considering the price of books in Brazil. If you have the opportunity to do so, find an English version. Nonetheless, the reading is very pleasant, and James Adovasio is meticulously convincing.
J Tea
Mar 16, 2016 J Tea added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Fantastic! Presents well thought out opinions based on fact and some supposition to promote the idea that the first people to arrive in the Americas came in many waves across a large span of years. Primarily points to information about sites and evidence that show the Clovis first theory of one group arriving at a specific time, and no one arriving prior the Clovis group, is incorrect.
James Loftus
Oct 01, 2012 James Loftus rated it liked it
This book started out so well. However, turned out to draw no final, definitive conclusion. However the authors contribution to the archeological record is immense - good on him! As a writer. Very good style. Obviously, brilliant.
Michael Capielano
Aug 15, 2015 Michael Capielano rated it really liked it
interesting look at the theories and evidence available. not only that, he also touches on the unjustified resistance to changing consensus theories, even when it seems to be quite clear that the evidence call for it.
Charles Maranto
Jun 08, 2011 Charles Maranto rated it really liked it
This book talks about the first people to come to America, which may have been 15 or 20,000 years ago. It also goes into some of the political fights in the Archaeology world among professors.

This book isn't for everyone, but I'd recommend it if you like this general area.
Jun 30, 2010 Bridget rated it liked it
wonderful recount of excavations at Meadowcroft and the drama surrounding the peopling of the New World. Adovasio is savvy, sassy, and wise. I recommend it for archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike.
Jan 17, 2013 Rainey rated it really liked it
I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet Dr. Adovasio during a seminar, and his insight is really driven and triumphant. His bold personality and his booming knowledge is really apparent in his writings, also. This was a very interesting read
Jan 27, 2009 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
Who knew archaeology could be riveting? Explodes the theory that Clovis cultures were the first to people the Americas and describes the accompanying academic intrigue.
Hmmm...not something I would recommend for your spare time, but it is the best kind of textbook. Adovasio is very peppery and does not hesitate to voice his opinion...or to burn his colleagues.
Leah Pileggi
Nov 09, 2014 Leah Pileggi rated it it was amazing
A thick, somewhat technical book that reads easier than you might think. It never lost me in the details. LOTS to think about.
Jeanetta Lee
Jeanetta Lee rated it really liked it
Oct 15, 2014
Joe Hefner
Joe Hefner rated it it was amazing
Jul 26, 2007
Amy rated it it was amazing
Sep 09, 2012
Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters rated it really liked it
Oct 12, 2011
Beth Kirby
Beth Kirby rated it really liked it
Sep 17, 2011
Steve Salisbury
Steve Salisbury rated it it was amazing
Feb 20, 2008
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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?

"James Adovasio has long been an authority on the first settlement of the Americas. His closely argued and often passionate account of one of archaeology's greatest mysteries helps define the new and e
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