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America before Columbus

See also: Native Americans and Archaeology/Anthropology.

Selected Books

Adovasio, James
The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery
E61.A36 2002
James M. Adovasio, director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, achieved world acclaim as an archaeologist in the 1970s with his excavation of Meadowcroft Rockshelter, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Meadowcroft has been recognized as the earliest well-dated archaeological site in the Western Hemisphere, with evidence of human habitation dating to 16,000 years ago.
Chatters, James C.
Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans
E78.W3 C417 2001
The skeleton known as Kennewick Man was discovered in 1996 by two young men along the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington. When the skeleton was brought to Jim Chatters, a forensic anthropologist, Chatters first believed that the remains were those of a nineteenth-century pioneer and was astonished when radiocarbon dating revealed the skeleton to be approximately 9,500 years old. Despite its antiquity, Kennewick Man did not resemble modern Native Americans but Europeans.
Dillehay, Thomas D.
The Settlement of the Americas: A New Prehistory
E58.D538 2000
University of Kentucky anthropologist Dillehay discovered human settlement at Monte Verde in Chile (dated at 12,500 years ago) which challenged the currently held view that the Clovis people in North America were the most ancient humans inhabiting the Americas (dated at 11,200).
Dewar, Elaine
Bones: Discovering the First Americans
E61.D463 2002x
Dewar, a Canadian investigative journalist, interviews the scientists involved in the battle over who were the first Americans.
Downey, Roger
Riddle of the Bones: Politics, Science, Race, and the Story of the Kennewick Man
E78 .W83 D69 2000
From its discovery in the Columbia River shallows in 1996, reporter Roger Downey chronicles the epic adventures of the skeleton called "Kennewick Man" and the controversies over how the Americas first came to be settled & by whom.
Fagan, Brian M.
The Great Journey: The Peopling of Ancient America
E61.F34 1987
First published in 1987, The Great Journey tells the story of the search for the first Americans--one of archaeology's great controversies. The 2004 edition is an enhanced edition beginning with an update on the debates and discoveries that have taken place since the late 1980s. Fagan presents the latest archaeological findings on both sides of the Bering Strait, new genetic and linguistic research that amplifies earlier theories, and he assesses the importance of global warming to first settlement.
Josephy Jr., Alvin M.
America in 1492: The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus
E58 .A526 1993
This collection of essays by experts on the history and cultures of American Indians aims to eradicate the "misshapen collection of largely false, distorted, or half-true images" of the "primitive" Native American.
Mann, Charles C.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus
E61.M266 2005
A groundbreaking study that uses information from research using novel scientific techniques to alter our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans in 1492. The Americas were not a vast unpopulated wilderness but may have had a larger population than Europe. This book was followed by 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.
Meltzer, David J.
First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America
E77.9.M45 2009
David J. Meltzer pulls together the latest ideas from archaeology, geology, linguistics, skeletal biology, genetics, and other fields to trace the breakthroughs that have recently revolutionized our understanding of the populating of the Americas.
O'Neill, Dan
The Last Giant of Beringia: The Mystery of the Bering Land Bridge
QE70.O63 2004x
Alaskan historian O'Neill charts the history of the theory that there was a land bridge between Alaska and Asia that allowed the Ice Age migration of animals and man into North America. Its existence was proved in the 1970s by New England geologist Dave Hopkins.
Powell, Joseph F.
The First Americans: Race, Evolution, and the Origin of Native Americans
E61.P693 2005
Recent discoveries such as Washington state's 'Kennewick Man', Brazil's 'Luzia', and Alaska's 'Prince of Wales Island Man' have challenged the archaeological and geological status quo. The First Americans explores these new discoveries by using racial classifications and micro-evolutionary techniques to better understand the complex relationships between the first Americans and contemporary Native Americans.
Stanford, Dennis J. and Bruce A. Bradley
Across Atlantic Ice: The Origin of America's Clovis Culture
E99.C832 S73 2012
Archaeologists Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley challenge the Bering Land Bridge theory for the peopling of the Americas and suggest that the first Americans crossed the Atlantic by boat and link the Clovis technology to that of the Solutrean people of France and Spain.


America before Columbus
(DVD) E103.A645 2010x
When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living in America. It wasn't exactly a New World, but an old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals, and causeways. But after Columbus set foot in the Americas, an endless wave of explorers, conquistadors, and settlers arrived, and with each of their ships came a Noah's Ark of plants, animals, and disease. Originally broadcast as a television program on the National Geographic Channel in 2009.
Coming into America
(DVD) E99.C832 S35 2004x
This program from Scientific American Frontiers highlights current research which is challenging the traditional theory of how people first came to North America in prehistoric times. It has been assumed that the Clovis, the oldest people to populate the continent, moved south from Alaska as Canadian ice sheets were breaking up. New findings by archaeologists indicate people may have come from more than one place following a number of routes including a Pacific coastal route, a Beringian land route and an Atlantic ice route. Clovis culture and technology is discussed. New research findings are presented by experts in the field.
Journey to 10,000 BC
(DVD) QE745.J683 2008x
Drawing on the fossil record, Journey to 10,000 BC from the History Channel shows what life was like for the prehistoric humans inhabiting North America.
Prehistoric America: A Journey through the Ice Age and Beyond
(DVD) QE745.P7425 2003bx
This BBC program (Prehistoric America) uses computer graphics to recreate the landscapes of prehistoric North America, showcasing such creatures as mammoths, mastadons, sabre-toothed cats, short-faced bears, and tree-sized ground sloths.

Web Sites

  • (Yukon) Beringia Interpretive Center
    Located in Whitehorse, Yukon, the Beringia Interpretive Center portrays what Beringia, the land between Alaska and Siberia, might have looked like about 20,000 years ago. Because of its arid climate, Beringia remained untouched by the glaciers that covered the rest of Canada. Instead, the landscape consisted mainly of vast steppe tundra which could support a broad variety of flora and fauna.
  • Center for the Study of the First Americans
    Located at the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University., this website offers its quarterly news magazine, the Mammoth Trumpet, to the public, reporting on all aspects of the peopling of the Americas.
  • Chaco Research Archive
    Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was a major site of Pueblo culture of the American Southwest between 850 BC and AD 1250. The website currently includes an exhaustive bibliography, an image gallery, and links to other online resources.
  • Ice Age Discoveries: New Evidence
    View this half hour video on the 18,000 year old Cactus Hill site on the Nottaway River in southeastern Virginia.
  • Kennewick Man
    A National Park Service site about the human skeletal remains that were found in July, 1996, along the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington. Dated at 9,500 years, the forensic anthropologist investigating them, James C. Chatters, felt that they were from a caucasoid man, not an American Indian.
  • National Park Service: Indian Mounds of Mississippi
    Many diverse Indian groups, drawn by the bountiful wildlife, warm climate, and fertile soil, made their homes in what is now Mississippi for thousands of years before the first Europeans and Africans arrived.
  • Nature: Ancient migration: Coming to America
    For decades, scientists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic to America. They were wrong and now they need a better theory. (May 2, 2012)
  • Southeast Archaeological Center (National Park Service)
    Outline of Prehistory and History of Southeastern North America and the Caribbean
    Includes an overview of the PaleoIndian, Archaic and Mississipian periods of American prehistory

Pittsburgh Region




Nearby States

  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
    From about 200 BC to AD 500, the Ohio River Valley was a focal point of the prehistoric Hopewell culture. The term Hopewell describes a broad network of beliefs and practices among different Native American groups over a large portion of eastern North America. The culture is characterized by the construction of enclosures made of earthen walls, often built in geometric patterns, and mounds of various shapes. Visible remnants of Hopewell culture are concentrated in the Scioto River valley near present-day Chillicothe, Ohio.
  • Ohio History Central: Prehistory
    A fairly extensive overview of palaeolithic culture in Ohio
  • Serpent Mound
    This is now a National Monument and the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States.
  • Sunwatch Indian Village, Archaeological Park
    Archaeological excavations at a site near the Great Miami River uncovered evidence of an 800-year-old village built by the Fort Ancient Indians. SunWatch Indian Village, a National Historic Landmark in Dayton, Ohio, is a reconstruction of that settlement of long ago.
  • West Virginia Archaeology Index
    Includes the archaeological history of West Virginia