I was disappointed in this book after being excited by the cover, a glance at the illustrations, and the subject. A comparison of prehistoric cities i...moreI was disappointed in this book after being excited by the cover, a glance at the illustrations, and the subject. A comparison of prehistoric cities in the New World - Cahokia (near St. Louis), and Mayan, Aztec, and Incan cities, with some explanation of what makes a city and how it comes to be is a wonderful and long overdue topic for a kid's book.
Unfortunately, "Buried Beneath Us" is rather confusing (as other reviewers note, the text jumps from one city & ancient culture to another very quickly), and I think that the blocks of text are too long for the target audience. The vocabulary is difficult for younger kids and a bit dry, too (e.g. "The foundations of religious worship probably go back to Paleolithic times. Humans have always depended on the proliferation of other species..." (pg. 49).
Religion is given priority both for origins and its role in the day-to-day life of these civilizations, but the other elements that contributed to the emergence, function, and growth of prehistoric cities (hereditary political power, warfare, agriculture, population growth, specialization, etc.) are given short shrift.
I was willing to go along with this perspective and style (if not overlook it entirely) for the sake of the narrative, but a couple of basic errors about Cahokia stopped me in my tracks.
First of all, Cahokia was not "built on bluff overlooking the Mississippi River" (p. 14). As any visit or a look at a description of the site shows, Cahokia was constructed on the floodplain, in an area known as the American Bottom (a geographic name that rivals Lake Titicaca in its snicker-potential for kids).
Futhermore, we do not know that "Cahokia's biggest holiday of the year happened in mid-July", nor that this was called "the Busk Festival" (p. 28). Aveni is careful to separate speculation about prehistoric religion from established archaeological fact elsewhere (as in the evidence for human sacrifice at Cahokia), so this statement attributing Cahokian ceremony to the historic Cherokee was surprising.
One sentence mentioning "smallpox and other diseases to which the natives were not immune" (p. 75) is overshadowed by lengthy descriptions of political unrest and Spanish alliances with Aztec and Incan neighbors, which may lead kids to believe that Tenochtitlan and Cuzco fell (like Cahokia and the Mayan cities) as part of a natural process or as a result of the Spanish invasion, instead of a result of deadly epidemics that may have killed 9 out of 10 people in these areas.
So yeah. Disappointing. But maybe some snippets of text or illustration will inspire some kids to examine what's "Buried Beneath Us" further.
An entertaining memoir about a bumbling hunter, fisher, gardener, and forager who lives near DC. One of the early chapters was sloooow...really, pages...moreAn entertaining memoir about a bumbling hunter, fisher, gardener, and forager who lives near DC. One of the early chapters was sloooow...really, pages about perch? But the pace picked up, the characters became more and more interesting (with some bonus romance!), and the stories - about crawfishing, going crazy ("abundance mania") over mushrooms or sour cherries or paw paws, an expensive foragers' dinner in San Francisco - became funnier and ever more interesting.
In case Bill reads this (I have been shocked by how many authors actually read and comment on my reviews!), I'd like to add that "tart cherries" are a "thing" here in Michigan. Not as common as sweet cherries, but essential and yes delicious for pie.
I was just a smidgeon disappointed that Bill didn't talk about goosefoot (aka lambs quarters or Chenopodium album) which is my favorite foraged food, because I have so much in my yard. But truthfully it is a bit boring and I don't eat it (or spinach, mustard greens, purslane, sorrel, or any other greens) nearly as much as I should. (less)
Interesting memoir about collecting herbs and nuts and berries in Portland. The author gets a bit mystical when it comes to herbal medicine and our co...moreInteresting memoir about collecting herbs and nuts and berries in Portland. The author gets a bit mystical when it comes to herbal medicine and our connection to nature, but it's an interesting study of American ethnobotany and belief, and she makes some very cogent observations. (less)