Books Reviews

The American Southeast at the End of the Ice Age
Edited by D. Shane Miller, Ashley M. Smallwood, and Jesse W. Tune

This book is a synthesis of recent and current research of the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene period (ca. 13,400-9000 B.P.) in the American Southeast, with contributions from expert researchers. In their introduction, the authors address the difficulties and the debates inherent in the study of this time period. Although the most well-known Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene research has been conducted on Clovis or Folsom sites in the Southwest and Great Plains, the Southeast has much to contribute toward answering four fundamental questions: When did people arrive in the Americas? How did they arrive? Who were they? And how did they adapt to the environment? In the subsequent chapters, the editors and their contributors illustrate this point.

The book has three parts. Part One discusses the state of knowledge concerning the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene in eleven Southeastern states. Part Two looks at the Southeast from a regional perspective and discusses current research themes in Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene studies. The book concludes with Part Three, which provides commentary from Vance T. Holiday an expert on this period who works outside of the Southeast, and a chapter by the editors addressing future research.

No book about the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene Southeast is complete without a description of the vastly different climate, flora, and fauna. Increased accuracy in dating has helped researchers understand the changes that occurred in the plant and animal communities of this era.

This volume covers all aspects of what researchers have learned about the lives and environment of the people living in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Southeast and the importance of this work in understanding the early prehistory of the Americas. It also emphasizes how much we still don’t know. It’s a fascinating read for those interested in the early prehistory of the Americas and a valuable reference for researchers.

—Jessica Crawford

University of Alabama Press, 2022; 528 pgs., illus.; $85 cloth or ebook;

Living & Dying on the Periphery
By Jamie L. Clark and John D. Speth

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.

University of Utah Press, 2022; 370 pgs., illus.; $75 cloth, $60 ebook;

On Desert Shores: Archaeology and History of the Western Midriff Islands in the Gulf of California
By Thomas Bowen

The Midriff Islands are located in the Gulf of California. They are hot, dry, and currently uninhabited. But for thousands of years they were home to Native Americans—the Seri people of Sonora and the Cochimis of Baja California. Spanish explorers first reached the islands in 1539, followed by Jesuit missionaries, pearl fishers, egg collectors, guano miners, Mexican fishermen, shipwreck victims, and scientists.

The first half of this study deals with the first and only archaeological excavations on the islands conducted by the author, an emeritus professor at the California State University at Fresno. A survey of the islands found more than 300 habitation sites ranging from villages with numerous structures to isolated camp sites. The most numerous type of structure on the islands are rock cairns, which number in the thousands and are of an unknown function. Stone circles are also common. The second half of the book deals with the historic visitors to the islands. The author uses the tools of a historian —documents and historical accounts—to flesh out their story. The final chapter deals with the environmental condition of the islands.

This is a richly illustrated, fascinating, and important study of a remote group of islands that, despite its harsh and unforgiving nature, has been home to successive waves of colonizers for thousands of years.

University of Utah Press, 2022; 288 pgs., illus.; $70 cloth, $56 ebook;

Real, Recent, or Replica: Pre-Columbian Caribbean Heritage as Art, Commodity, and Inspiration
Edited by Joanna Ostapkowicz and Jonathan A. Hanna

EThis study documents the growing demand for pre-Columbian art and artifacts in the Caribbean Islands, be they real, recent, or replica. Archaeologists of the region are under increasing pressure to correctly identify a variety of artifacts, including numerous forgeries as well as real specimens looted from ancient sites, that make their way onto the black market. The demand has also produced a healthy industry creating modern replicas and original inspired works of art. This market is fueling a major threat to the cultural patrimony of the Caribbean Islands embodied in the native Taíno culture.

Eighteen scholars contribute to twelve articles that cover all aspects of the issue, especially the manufacture of fakes and the looting of ancient sites. They also survey the attempts of governments to come to grips with the problem. They explore the role of museums and other institutions in separating authentic items from forgeries.

The first of its kind, Real, Recent, or Replica is an important addition to the literature of historical preservation and the on-going struggle to protect national heritage. It is a readable and well-illustrated study that has policy implications in many regions of the world.

– Mark Michel

University of Alabama Press, 2022; 352 pgs., illus.; , $70 cloth or ebook;