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Fossil Legends of the First Americans

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3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  44 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 446 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Princeton University Press (first published March 21st 2005)
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Eric
Jun 19, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in unorthodox history
I enjoyed the way Mayor lays out the American Indian understanding of the fossils they encountered. It really shows how complex and reasoned their stories were, and how they understood fossils much earlier and much better than anyone with white skin. Looking forward to finishing this book's predecessor about fossils in ancient Greece and Rome.
Bonnie
Oct 14, 2011 Bonnie rated it really liked it
Okay, it's been a while since I read this, but this was one of the most fun academic books I've read.

A feature I particularly enjoyed was the chapter quotes, usually two per chapter, if I remember correctly. One quote would be obviously biased and usually racist about how the Native Americans were not smart enough, didn't realize the significance of the things these nice white archaeologists were "discovering". The second quote would be a very definite contrast, with recorded quotes from Native
...more
James F
The book begins by describing one of the first fossil elephant finds in America -- by a party of Abenakis. (Of particular interest to me, since one of my great-great-grandmothers was probably Abenaki.) The account was later rewritten to have the find made by a French commander. . .

This is a follow-up to the author's earlier book on the fossil discoveries of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is somewhat more speculative, since the Native American traditions were oral and usually only written down
...more
Caroline
May 15, 2014 Caroline rated it really liked it
This book is in very much a similar vein to Adrienne Mayor's earlier book, The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times, tracing evidence, via literature, folklore and myth, of the awareness of ancient cultures of prehistoric fossils. She set herself a much harder task in this book, in tracing Native American awareness and understanding of fossil remains via stories and myth-making, since most Native cultures are oral and therefore prior to the relatively mode ...more
Renée Dominique
Jul 26, 2015 Renée Dominique rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was well-written, concise, and the arguments were neatly drawn but not overly conjectural. If I had any criticisms of this book they would be that sometimes the content could be a little dry, especially if the person reading it had no background in archaeology/history. Additionally, Mayor's treatment of the blatant racism and seizure/destruction of sacred Native America artifacts and lands wavers between matter-of-fact identification (e.g., the government was/conti ...more
Allen Riley
Oct 15, 2009 Allen Riley rated it liked it
An academic reading of Native American myths involving Dinosaur and Pleistocene fossils.

Mayor is frustrated with the rejection of oral and traditional knowledge from paleontological research. She argues that traditional knowledge contains legitimate facts that can be used in a scientific context, or at least in framing scientific research. She calls for researchers to develop a method of accessing the usable information in myths. Her approach is to make inferences based on possible references to
...more
Dan
Apr 10, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be endlessly fascinating. I have often wondered what Native Americans thought and believed about the prolific fossils so conspicuously populating their natural landscape. Ms. Mayor's book is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, but it is meticulously well-researched and documented. She admits herself that she is merely scratching the surface in this new hybrid discipline of paleontological folklore. Fossil Legends of the First Americans gives me a much greater appreciati ...more
Jane
Jan 26, 2012 Jane rated it really liked it
If dinosaurs intrigued you long before Jurassic Park, and if you seek to increase your understanding of Native American culture, this book is for you.
Kathy Meier
I didn't make it all the way through. Had some really neat information about a bone bed in Kentucky.
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