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The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  416 ratings  ·  70 reviews
In this thrilling story of intellectual and archaeological discovery, David Roberts recounts his last twenty years of far-flung exploits in search of spectacular prehistoric ruins and rock art panels known to very few modern travelers. His adventures range across Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado, and illuminate the mysteries of the Ancestral Puebloans a ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 25th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published April 13th 2015)
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Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are at all interested in archeology, the American Southwest, or just love travel and discovery- you should not miss this book. And you will not need the language of scientific classifications or minutia of crosscut wood dating or anything in that order to understand it either. David Roberts is an original. Oh, you can tell.

The sections upon the reaction to his former book "In Search of the Old Ones" is worth the read alone. In these days of GPS and good guessers, he got into a bit of tro
John Carter McKnight
Roberts blends an extreme-travel narrative (his specialty) with an exceptional account of the ongoing academic controversies around our understanding of the pre-Columbian Southwest. Nature and history lovers will enjoy the vivid tales of exploration and discovery (though Roberts could definitely ease up on the adjectives) from a veteran National Geographic writer. I'd highly recommend this book, though, to academics in the social sciences, or those studying the production of knowledge.

Roberts i
Peter Tillman
Splendid book on my favorite part of this country, the American Southwest. Required reading for prospective newcomers and seasoned travelers alike. Very few travelers will want to try to match his exploits, but the area is (in part) accessible to people of modest physical abilities too. You should go. And, in the meanwhile, his book is an armchair travelers delight.

I lived in the Southwest for 35 years and have been to many of the more accessible places he mentions (and many more that he didn't)
Fredrick Danysh
Expecting a treasure trove of information about the Old Ones, I was disappointed that the focus was on the author's person travel log of trips to ancient sites and feuds among the archaeologists. The limit information about the Old Ones is of interest. ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the focuses of this book is the examination of the archaeological record of the peoples who once occupied the Southwestern United States. Around 1300 AD the Fremont people seemingly disappeared from the region and the reasons for this have never fully been explained. David Roberts is a climber (mountaineer? scrambler?) who also happens to be a writer for such publications as National Geographic. This is the second book that he has written which focuses on this particular area of the world ...more
Dave DeWitt
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part archaeological history and part reminiscence, David Roberts’ new book recounts mysteries solved about the ancient people long-called the Anasazi, a term no longer used in scientific circles. The new PC term for these ancient dwellers of the Southwest is now “Ancestral Puebloans,” and Roberts reports that books with the word “Anasazi” in the title have been banned from National Park Service gift shops. I enjoyed Roberts’ tales of his many expeditions to learn more about these people, and the ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-southwest
Excellent follow up to In Search of the Old Ones. archaeology has changed a lot since Roberts first wrote of the Ancestral Puebloans and he discusses new theories and research and extends the scope to include the Fremont and Mogollon cultures. I was pleased that his views on Indians’ oral traditions have changed and he (and some archaeologists) gave more weight to their own stories and history (this was something I felt he was much too dismissive of in In Search of the Old Ones).

Roberts capture
Claudia Putnam
Roberts writes well, but he's soooo male. He misses a lot when it comes to other cultures. Example: this ruin is situated on a "lordly" spot. Did the Ancestral Pueblo peoples have Lord's? Did they organize their world in this Western-male sort of way? No evidence of that presented here. Not sure Roberts is even aware of his biases. But I did appreciate the description/validation of "the hum." When I read this I'd just returned from a trip to Chaco w my ears buzzing. ...more
Sondra Rosier
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book traces David Roberts hiking, scrambling and searching for the Ancestral Puebloans of the Southwest. More of what I have been interested in since we moved to Moab. Also, he wrote another book about 20 years ago on the same topic which has become a classic. Very interesting, informative and intriguing. Also, some duplication.
Glenn Roberts
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this more than his Sandstone Spine. Same type of information: Anasazi, Fremont and other Southwest hiking to petroglyphs and other ancient art.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m a fan of adventure writers who take me places I don’t have the guts or physical capabilities to visit myself. I just finished books by two of them, writers who explored ruins left behind by some of earliest Americans, aka the Pueblo Ancestors/Old Ones/Anasazi et al. This is a joint review of “The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discovers in the Ancient Southwest,” by David Roberts, published in2015, and “House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest,” by Craig Chi ...more
David Ward
The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest by David Roberts (W.W. Norton & Co. 2015) (978.9). Author David Roberts is a leading outdoor writer with special expertise on the subjects of high-altitude mountaineering and rock climbing as well as on the ancient native cultures of the American Southwest. This book recounts the author's explorations in the Four Corners region into the disappearance of the prehistoric cultures which thrived in the area but which were abandoned ...more
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Lost World of the Old Ones is a read aimed directly at me -- Southwestern hiking and archaeology? Yes, please! David Roberts isn't a scientist but the best sort of hobbyist, the kind that really knows his shit, and uses the freedom of the hobby to explore all aspects, rather than being locked into one specialization. The main and most glaring weakness, the one I don't want to talk about the rest of the book without mentioning, is the glaring absence of Native voices in this book about the se ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I purchased Mr. Roberts's The Lost World of the Old Ones before traveling to the Desert Southwest two summers ago. I planned to read it before the trip, but I did not. I took it on the trip, and maybe even started it, but it wasn't until recently, I revisited David Roberts's archaeological travelogue.

As it turns out, I'm glad I read it after the trip. Not only did I enjoy reminiscing about our ventures, but I think it was a more fruitful read after experiencing the terrain and sites visited.

Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it would be more informative on the Ancients so that was disappointing but I'll still give it 4 stars because the authors stories of exploration were pretty good. If your wanting to learn more on the Fremont and petroglyphs I dont recommend but if you'd like an overall view into the beauty and remoteness of the four corners region and some of the differences in the Pueblo People's and sites then this is a good book. One thing I feel conflicted on is that the author laments the influx o ...more
Jana Williams
Well it has provided some useful material for the next book in my FREEFALL sci-fi series... so that's been compelling. Really interesting material on the ancient civilizations in the SW .... but also kind of sad author notes about the degradation of ancient sites by the untutored masses who find them. Sigh....

Blasted through the remainder of the book last night...and still have mixed feelings. If you have an abiding interest in the ancient civilizations of the SW... read it - it's really neat. B
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I struggled to get through parts of this book, especially the very detailed/scientific discussions on time periods and the theories surrounding which inhabitants dominated the area of study. However, after trudging through some of that, I was mesmerized with the stories of exploration, discovery and pure joy of being in the beautiful southwest and all its history. That would have probably resulted in an overall rating of “4”, but at the end, as this 70 year-old author (in 2013) is still hiking, ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent David Roberts book about the ancient southwest. Many stories about hikes in various canyons mostly in Utah and Arizona and the amazing discoveries made on them. Artifacts which appear to have been left behind and untouched for 800 to 1500 years. The cover photo of a granary 1000 feet above the canyon floor on a sheer rock wall really sets the tone. The writer really catches the wonderment of these discoveries and makes the reader feel as if he's along on the trail. There is als ...more
Regina McGrane
I have such mixed feelings about this book. I learned a ton and hearing about David Robert's adventures was an educating page turner. However, Robert's is often arrogant, abrasive, and entitled. I often thought that for some reason he envisions himself more worthy of the experiences he has in the American Southwest than others. He switches from respecting the word of natives to mocking their oral history, but criticized and damned those who did the either. He swings from the pendulum of outdoor ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
As Roberts is writing about my favourite topic, exploring in the Southwest, I really like this book. He does expand his range to include the Fremont people and some of the pueblos in New Mexico, but it still seems more coherent than his original book on this topic. I also think his writing has gotten smoother over the years. He was probably always relaxed, but much of this book feels like an older man (70) reflecting back with satisfaction on the things he has been able to do and share with his ...more
River James
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Abbeyesque in writing style as well as in his use of personal narrative in exploring and explaining the land, the ruins, the art and the culture of the Old Ones. He gets some very interesting personalities out in the open about the conflicting ways in which modern America treats its Cultural Heritage. This is a very engaging travelogue about an area that can be quite dry and dusty both figuratively and literally. Great read, my number one recommendation for my guests when I guide them at Mesa Ve ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent sequel to "In Search of the Old Ones". Much the same format and exploration, but updated with new discoveries and anthropology of the people of the Southwest. I'm binging on this type of reading, and the bibliography has provided me with way too many books to explore: but, I've got nothing but time. ...more
Glenn L. Krum
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting narrative

The story is not in calendar order but jumps around enough to bother me. The narrative is part biography/reminiscences and part a narrative history of archaeology of the American Southwest principally Utah but parts of Arizona and New Mexico.
Judi Fine
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book even though I will never be able to do the hikes and scrambles he describes in this book. fascinating reading about different theories about places we so recently visited. I have a greater appreciation for the museum in nature approach.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
This is a re-read that I enjoyed a great deal. But it’s a bit easy for the author to keep advocating further and perhaps complete restriction of access to many of these areas only after, of course, he has visited.
Jack Pando
Apr 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
I stopped reading this book when a white man said he wasn’t going to stop using a derogatory for Ancient Pueblo communities because it was the way they had always been referred as. The term he was using literally meant “Enemy of the people.”
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Packed with information and discoveries about the pre-Spanish inhabitants of the southwest. Every page was a learning discovery Will need to reread after our Road Scholar trip to this area.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
307 pages

A walk of discovery with David Roberts throughout
the Southwest. Thought provoking and amazing.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. I love hiking canyon country in the four corners area of the southwest and I’m happy I stumbled upon this author.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Best book on southwest archeology I've read thus far ...more
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David Roberts is the award-winning author of twenty-nine books about mountaineering, exploration, and anthropology. His most recent publication, Alone on the Wall, was written with world-class rock climber Alex Honnold, whose historic feats were featured in the film Free Sol

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