Bill Wallace's Reviews > Fossil Legends of the First Americans

Fossil Legends of the First Americans by Adrienne Mayor
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it was amazing

What wonderful places the Americas are! This book provides two interconnected and unusual lenses that focus mostly on North America's past. So much of the continents' history predates its invasion by Europeans and vastly more time predates mankind and Fossil Legends does a terrific job of collecting diverse threads of science and lore into a cohesive account of a nearly lost past.

The discovery by Europeans of fossils in the United States opened up a window into ancient time in tantalizing fragments that are still being assembled slowly. The pre-European inhabitants of the continent, of course, had already found the remnants of immense, vanished creatures and woven the bones and tracks into their myths, legends, and religions. The crossroads of those legends and the birth of paleontology are the main concerns of this excellent volume. The coherence of native American myth across the expanse of the continent -- water monsters, thunderbirds, and the war between divine factions -- is an epic story and the telling of that epic beside the adventures of Marsh, Cope, and other early paleontologists, makes a wonderful pairing. The author approaches her subject with sympathy for the Indians who, even today, are fighting to retain control of the remnants of their culture and heritage.

The jacket illustration by Pete von Sholly is especially wonderful for an old comic book fan like me. It shows Turok (Son of Stone) and his son Andar standing among fossils with Turok's tale of the war between gods painted on the clouds, a perfect summing up of paleontology and the romanticized view of native Americans in popular culture and imagination.

Now I'm very much looking forward to reading Ms. Mayor's book The First Fossil Hunters, about the European roots of paleontology.
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2020 – Started Reading
January 2, 2020 – Shelved
January 9, 2020 – Finished Reading

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