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Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,077 ratings  ·  187 reviews
From the author of Apocalyptic Planet comes a vivid travelogue through prehistory, that traces the arrival of the first people in North America at least twenty thousand years ago and the artifacts that tell of their lives and fates.

In Atlas of a Lost World, Craig Childs upends our notions of where these people came from and who they were. How they got here, persevered, and
Hardcover, First Edition, 269 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Pantheon Books
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Steven Yes! Global and North American maps depicting the landscape at various times, before, during an after the ice age, created by Sarah Gilman. Also drawi…moreYes! Global and North American maps depicting the landscape at various times, before, during an after the ice age, created by Sarah Gilman. Also drawings of ice age animals, their bones and various tools used by the people of various portions of the ice age. (less)

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P. Kirby
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America is an elegiac meditation on the possible history of humans in the Ice Age Americas. I say "possible" because the picture drawn by Childs, compiled from the research of scientists over the decades, remains out of focus, a function of the immense span of time that has passed and the paucity of artifacts available.

For me, the book is also an examination of humanity's refusal to think far in the future. By that, I mean the flagrant overuse (over-hunt
Joy D
This book is a pleasing blend of science, history, and memoir. As I read it, I felt like I was accompanying author Craig Childs back into prehistory. He traces the arrival of the first humans in North America and describes artifacts that tell how they lived and died. Childs travels to various archaeological sites, covering a wide swath of North America, with stops in Canada and the US, including Alaska, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Florida, and more.

The book is structured in a loosely chr
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting, provocative book.

A survey of what happened when, where, how and sometimes why. Mr. Childs has traveled extensively, all over North America, sometimes in a truck, other times on foot, in a kayak, on all-terrain vehicles. Once he settles into a location - a desert, a forest, a swamp in the southeast - he gives an overview of the present-day topography, the climate, the plant and animal life. Then he reaches back in time...

To give another view, of what the area was like 12,000 years ag
Tracy Rowan
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a scientific text. Not even close. What this is, is a lyrical travelogue through ice age sites in America. Childs doesn't show us The Story of prehistoric man on this continent, but rather A Story, filled with possibilities, even probabilities, based on evidence of tool-making, camp sites, kill sites, and his own vivid imaginings of what his experiences in these places might have been like ten or fifteen thousand years ago.

Moving back and forth from his own travels to his recreation
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have a bit of a reader-crush on Childs. His blend of personal narrative and succinct, vivid, relatable and compelling summary of archaeological research evidence makes for compulsive reading for me. This despite the fact that much of what he writes -- about half of each book, really -- is to some extent "nature writing" in which I have little interest. Perhaps this is because the landscapes in which he tends to travel are harsh, and so he's not a pastoral nature writer. He understands that the ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian
Most of Craig Childs’ books follow the same formula - he picks a topic, writes half a book about it, then fills the other half with his own adventures (often getting pretty personal in the process) and ties his adventures back to his topic. His prose is usually very polished and well written - this one is no different - but his books tend to be a little uneven - skirting that fine line between “interesting” and “boring”.

This is one of his better attempts. The topic this time is the migration of
Stephen Simpson
May 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Interesting subject; crap execution.

The writer's "style" is that of wannabe novelist/poet, and it hampers the quality of the work.
What's worse, and the reason I stopped reading halfway through, was the statement on page 144 that cottonmouth bites are "frequently fatal". The last confirmed fatal cottonmouth bite in the U.S. was in the early 70's, and there are dozens-to-hundreds of bites (estimated) per year.

Maybe this is a minor quibble, and it certainly isn't relevant to the main thrust of t
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Craig Childs is passionate about prehistory. He seems to be familiar with every archaeological dig from Canada to South America, which allows him to make connections between peoples and times, some of them conjectural but none entirely implausible. He is skilled at being able to take one or two artifacts and build from them a sequence of ever expanding cultural connections. His connect-the-dots style reminded me of the philosopher Rousseau: if you accept premise A and premise B follows logically ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well written but filled with too much rumination from 21st century man.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Any person who comes at this book, as an inquisitive homo sapien, looking for a book that will inform you about the nice details of the ice age will be disappointed. It is more of a personal diary with small tidbits about the ice age. The book will have a lot of reminiscing with the layout similar to: "if I was in the ice age ______". If you are looking for a book that is more a journey through the authors admittedly adventure filled life of climbing and the wilderness, than this is the book for ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the book are the author's personal experiences which were of zero interest to me and I gave up on it after about 10%. ...more
Sharman Russell
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an extraordinary world, before the Pleistocene extinctions of some 10,000 years ago, the landscape of North America rippling with so many animals: giant sloths, cave bears, short-faced bears, saber-tooth cats, scimitar cats, American cheetahs, American lions, giant beavers, giant bison, horses, camels, llamas, mountain deer, stag-moose, four-horned antelope, glyptodonts, mastodons, mammoths, condors, and teratorns. What abundance! Everyone was so big. There was so much food, so many sounds ...more
GoodReads should have a category "begun, not finished". But as it doesn't I put this under "read". I read about 53 pages. They were interesting enough, but glancing through the book I thought the rest was likely to be more of the same, just taking place in other sites. The author is imaginative enough (and intrepid!) in describing what the early from-Asia/Siberia travelers were likely to have seen in terms of geology and animal and plant life as they entered into North America (and he goes only ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
2.5 stars

This book is a mix of a modern travelogue from the author's point of view and a rough overview of early human sites in the Western hemisphere. The author takes their experiences from traveling to those sites and tries to extrapolate what the early humans might have been doing and thinking.

While I can see where this approach might to appeal to other readers, this is not what I was looking for and I ended up skimming some paragraphs towards the end.
Claudia Putnam
Okay: so the promised review.

This is a rocking tour of what is now the North American continent at the time of first contact with humans. Maybe. At the end of the last Ice Age anyway. Which is generally accepted to be when humans got here. Except some squiggly pieces of evidence that suggest older dates that are hard to explain.

Which makes the start of the book, where Childs is in a Colorado cave helping excavate camel bones, and he and his fellow excavators are fantasizing about finding an ar
Richard Thompson
Jun 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
There is a some science here, but it isn't a science book. I enjoyed learning that early man may have been in the New World earlier than was once thought and may have come here in different ways and with some two way communication of culture with the Old World. I liked the theory that the megafauna hunted to extinction by early man were probably never a primary food source and may have been hunted more for the cultural and symbolic value of overcoming the greatest of beasts. But really this book ...more
A vivid travelogue of the North American continent referencing the most recent archaeological discoveries to weave the story of the first humans to reach the continent during the Pleistocene. Childs re examines our misconceptions about the first Native Americans and traces their interactions with megafauna including giant bears, bison, lions, camels and, of course, mastadons and mammoths. In addition, Childs provides vivid narration of his own hiking and camping as he visits the locations of sig ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My third book by Childs and I am yet to be disappointed. He writes without self-indulgence and without over-the-top moralism. He educates and informs by intelligently presenting what he has learned but it never feels that it is about him. I trust his voice implicitly.
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
While this was interesting academically, I will stick to Jean Auel if I want to learn about Ice Age man. As much as her books slide into caveman erotica, at least she can tell an interesting story while teaching us!
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A merging of personal travels and science, Childs reveals his experiences and his conclusions from Alaska to Florida and from the Oregon desert to Monte Verde, Chile. The first people came 40,000 to 15,000 years ago from every direction and traveled swiftly into North and South America. They established dozens of cultures and languages, evidenced by artifacts and archaeological finds. During the Paleozoic and early Holocene, the people dealt with giant megafauna--mammoths, mastodons, giant sloth ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoy books that mix history with personal accounts. "I felt as if I'd been going from landmark to landmark, asking, Are you my mother?" Childs writes about the Pleistocene era, the last ice age, relating his own search for understanding of the first settlers who crossed the Bering Strait into the Americas. Any book that can teach me the difference between mastodons and mammoths is okay with me. ...more
David Wineberg
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Take that, Columbus

Atlas of a Lost World is a tour with a difference. Its chapters are thousands of years long, but it all takes place in the present. Craig Childs has tried to follow the real first pilgrims as they migrated from Asia to the western continents. He says the so-called land bridge over the Bering Straits was not so much a bridge as a natural part of the land when the seas were much lower during the ice age. Far from a narrow, temporary bridge, it was 500 miles wide. Those making th
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This book weaves together a modern day travel diary with discussion of the archaeology documenting the movement and lifestyle of humans during the ice age. The author Craig Childs relates stories of kayaking and canoeing with family and friends in Alaska and Florida, as well as hikes in Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico, and a lone excursion to caves in Oregon. He weaves into this narrative discussion of archaeological finds all across the Americas, including the Clovis people who may have followed ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lindsay by: Sarah
I never knew I was a sucker for the Ice Age until I saw a fabulous exhibit on it at the Cincinnati Museum Center a few years back. This is the book I've been wanting to read ever since, and it hit all the right buttons. I love Childs' hazy retreat into history after discussing archaeological digs and camping trips, bringing the past to life. I now have an even greater appreciation for the world that came before ours and will look at the land in a whole new way. ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
A book that's equal parts mediocre adventure writing, navel-gazing memoir, and Anth 101.
Yeah that's a bit of a roast, but the Anth 101 sections are actually very digestible, journalistic, and - at times - enjoyable. Just be prepared for some skimming in between.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: half-read
It was okay, just a bit too much repetition and too much about his own adventures exploring north america. I just had a different expectation of the book and while it wasn't written badly it couldn't keep my attention and I never wanted to get back to it to read/finish it. ...more
Vicki Gibson
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Craig Childs traces the history of the first people in North America - some 20,000-ish years ago - through the late Pleistocene and early Neocene eras. Woven through the story are the author's attempts at recreating what these ancient people may have experienced - from a visit to the remnants of the Alaskan land bridge to sinkholes in Florida.

As far as I can tell Craig Childs is not an anthropologist, archeologist, paleontologist, or a scientist of any kind. He i
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America
Craig Childs
Pantheon, 2018
ISBN9780307908650, $28.95
(paperback scheduled April 2019)

Craig Childs is a nature and science writer who has published several other books including “Apocalyptic Planet,” “Finders Keepers,” and “Animal Dialogues.” “Atlas of a Lost World” is his latest. He has also written for various publications and teaches writing at the University of Alaska and the Southern New Hampshire University.

This work examines the questions of
Not quite what I expected but then it was interesting and parts even read like a travelogue. Starting as the land bridge between Asia and North America was forming and reforming as ice ages surged and receded, the author take the readers along on an exploratory trip into the areas where artifacts have been found. Kayaking along the coast of Alaska and the Aleutian islands, possibly duplicating the trails of ancient hunters as they followed megafauna along the glacial edges. Further along the Pac ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book isn't quite what I expected. That's not the author's fault, of course. It could be the publisher's fault, given the somewhat misleading subtitle "Travels in Ice Age America". More accurate (but admittedly too lengthy) would have been "Travels to a Bunch of Ice Age Excavation Sites".

The author gave himself a difficult task: write a book about animals and humanity in Ice Age North America, but do it as a contemporary travel book. Ultimately, for me, it didn't work. Yes, to the author's c
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CRAIG CHILDS is a commentator for NPR's Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Men's Journal, Outside, The Sun, and Orion. He has won numerous awards including the 2011 Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, 2008 Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, the 2007 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, and the 2003 Spirit of the West Award for his body of work. ...more

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