Books Reviews

Diversity in Open-Air Site Structure Across the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary
Edited by Kristen A. Carlson and Leland C. Bement

The late Pleistocene/early Holocene period (ca. 12,500 years ago) was a time of retreating glaciers and expanding human activity.  Many large mammals were declining, perhaps in part due to over hunting.  Archaeologists call these people Paleo-Indians, the first Americans, and usually look for evidence of these hunter-gatherers in caves, rock shelters, and big kill sites.

In this informative study archaeologists examine paleo sites in the open air, which are much more difficult to research due to their many superimposed events, poor preservation, and open surroundings.  Twenty-five scholars contribute to nine essays that detail work at six American sites from Alaska to New Mexico, plus one each in Germany and Siberia. Using new technologies and excavation techniques, the authors demonstrate how large amounts of data can be recovered from otherwise difficult environments. 

This represents a much needed examination of paleo sites that have been elusive and promises to add new information about the lives and lifestyles of some of the earliest Americans.  It should inspire paleo archaeologists to gain important new information from sites located in the open air.

University Press of Colorado, 2022; 256 pgs., illus., $66 cloth, $53 ebook;

Girl Archaeologist: Sisterhood in a Sexist Profession
By Alice Beck Kehoe

Eighty-six year old Alice Beck Kehoe tells the saga of a female archaeologist who began a calling in a field with few women and lots of sexism, and who persisted and built a distinguished career as the world and the profession changed and became more accepting of women, who are now a powerful presence.

Kehoe is a professor of anthropology emerita at Marquette University and the author or editor of twenty books.  She has spent most of her career researching the ethnology and archaeology of the Canadian and American Great Plains.  She recounts struggling through a male-dominated Radcliffe/Harvard to earn a Ph.D. while caring for a husband and a growing family.  In the mid-1960s, there was a shortage of academic archaeologists, and Kehoe launched her career at the University of Nebraska, and then Marquette University in Milwaukee.  They were a good jobs, and she built a distinguished career, but by the time she retired, Kehoe figured she had earned thirty percent less than her male colleagues.

Much of her work took place on the Blackfoot reservation in western Montana, where she focused on the tribe and their ancestors.  The resulting books and articles became an outstanding contribution to ethnographic and archaeological study, but funding for research was hard to come by.

This highly-personal memoir is charming, funny, and a bit heartbreaking.  It tells a fascinating story of the trials and travails of a female scholar in a time of acute discrimination against women.  It took three generations of young women persisting like Kehoe to move the profession toward equality.

Kehoe has seen archaeology grow and change over sixty years—both technically and politically.  While women in positions of prestige and influence were rare in the 1960s, today they are common.  Kehoe’s story documents what it took to move the profession in that direction.  It is an inspiration to all.

University of Nebraska Press, 2022; 230 pgs., illus., $25 paper;

Linda S. Cordell: Innovating Southwest Archaeology
Edited by Maxine E. McBrinn and Deborah L. Huntley

Linda Cordell (1943-2013) was a pioneer archaeologist of the American Southwest who helped shape the modern archaeology of the region, particularly in the upper Rio Grande.  A native of New York City, Cordell first came to the Southwest in 1964 at age twenty-one to participate in an archaeological field school at Sapawe Pueblo in northern New Mexico under the direction of Florence Hawley Ellis.  It was only one of the few field schools that would accept women in 1964.  She not only learned the basics of field work that summer, but began a lifelong romance with the ancient cultures of the Southwest.  This volume, with contributions from colleagues and former students, documents her outstanding fifty-year career in archaeology and how she shaped the discipline.

Her Ph.D. dissertation from the University of California, Santa Barbara modeled settlement patterns on Wetherill Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park, where she developed new methods and technologies.  Her professional career included being a professor, researcher, author, field school director, department chair, and museum specialist.  She was on the faculty of the University of New Mexico, the California Academy of Sciences, and the University of Colorado, where she also directed the Museum of Natural History

Cordell was in the field almost every summer, doing groundbreaking research on the ancient Pueblo people of the region and teaching scores of students the basics of field methodology.  She pioneered new technologies such as remote sensing and adopted new methods for studying ceramics.  She was also involved with contemporary Native communities throughout her career.

This volume is composed of seventeen essays by twenty-nine scholars who worked with Cordell.  They relate the varied aspects of her work and the impact she had on Southwestern archaeology, with an emphasis on the specialties with which she was most involved.  With 112 illustrations and eleven maps, this work is a fitting tribute to a renowned scholar who inspired an entire generation of archaeologists.  It is also a tribute to an extraordinary individual who was admired and loved by those lucky enough to come under her influence.

Museum of New Mexico Press, 2022; 176 pgs., illus., $45 cloth;

The Archaeology of Place & Space in the West
Edited by Emily Dale and Carolyn L. White

This volume uses landscape to examine space (a geographic location) and place (the lived experience of a locale) in the American West.  The history of the West is bound up with myths that archaeologists and historians must wade thorough to get at reality.  Even the definition of the West is controversial, as geological and cultural boundaries drift over time.

Sixteen historical archaeologists contribute to fourteen essays that illustrate the difficulties of defining space and place.  It is divided into three thematic sections—the West as space, the West as community, and the West today.  Case studies illustrate the problems these scholars face to make a complete picture of a complex collection of circumstances and people that include Native Americans, Euro-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, and others.

This volume is an important addition to the literature of the historical archaeology of the American West.  It develops sound frameworks for further advances in a field that can be both contentious and rewarding.

— Mark Michel

University of Utah Press, 2022; 224 pgs., illus., $60 cloth;