First Peoples in a New World

  • by David J. Meltzer
  • Narrated by Christopher Prince
  • 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

More than 12,000 years ago, in one of the greatest triumphs of prehistory, humans colonized North America, a continent that was then truly a new world. Just when and how they did so has been one of the most perplexing and controversial questions in archaeology. This dazzling, cutting-edge synthesis, written for a wide audience by an archaeologist who has long been at the center of these debates, tells the scientific story of the first Americans: where they came from, when they arrived, and how they met the challenges of moving across the vast, unknown landscapes of Ice Age North America. David J. Meltzer pulls together the latest ideas from archaeology, geology, linguistics, skeletal biology, genetics, and other fields to trace the breakthroughs that have revolutionized our understanding in recent years. Among many other topics, he explores disputes over the hemisphere's oldest and most controversial sites and considers how the first Americans coped with changing global climates. He also confronts some radical claims: that the Americas were colonized from Europe or that a crashing comet obliterated the Pleistocene megafauna. Full of entertaining discriptions of on-site encounters, personalities, and controversies, this is a compelling behind-the-scenes account of how science is illuminating our past. The book is published by University of California Press.

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What the Critics Say

"A natural storyteller, David Meltzer gives us a vivid picture of both the colonizing bands of humans who moved into the Americas and the researchers who followed their footsteps from Alaska to Chile. This is an insider's account, told with a keen eye and sense of humor, as if Meltzer were there when discoveries were made and when disputes were aired - as, indeed, he often was." (Ann Gibbons, author of The First Human)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

First Peoples - Fantastic

This is a fantastic summary of our present understanding of early human life in America. It not only gave me a good summary of migration to and through America, but also the science behind this understanding. Though the explanations got quite technical at times (genetics, for example), I never felt overwhelmed. Both the writing and reading were great.
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- Marc

Last Gasp of American Anthropological Orthodoxy

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would, on the sole condition that I may brief them beforehand and debrief them afterwards.


What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

It was as expected, a defense and reinforcement.


What does Christopher Prince bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He reads faster than I do, so it was finished sooner.


Could you see First Peoples in a New World being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

I should hope not. These old stories have been worn out.


Any additional comments?

Expect an anthropological book written from the recent and dominant American academic perspective. The author cannot help but leap out of science or massage it thoroughly into the acceptable and desired sociopolitical narratives. If you have a reasonable world history perspective you'll be perplexed by the simplistic and unfairly repeated perspectives. A summary would be; Innocent Native Americans done wrong by somewhat advanced, mean, diseased, and lucky Europeans. If you go abroad be careful not to regurgitate this at peril of reinforcing the well founded "Americans are ignorant of history" belief.
Just as the weather these days is reported in nature-hostile and silly anthropomorphized lingo- Hurricane Hugo is attacking, killing and wreaking havoc in its path, this book discusses genetics, archeology, geology, and a few other ologies with the same installed template.
A better book would have taken a few steps back and described the same merciless advancement of people upon other people being the norm not only to the Americas but on every continent and in a continuity with the rest of humanity. Britons suffered Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Old Europe suffered Huns, Vikings, Mongols and eventually Arabs who in their turn had suffered invasions, violence, disease, decimation so on and so on for eons by peoples and empires long gone.
Maybe those Siberians crossed Beringia to escape this never ending interaction and infringement and did so successfully for a long while until their old world caught-up and closed back around upon them.
Maybe the most recent wave of Paleoindians themselves being more advanced from the old world brought weapons, warfare, disease and infringed upon and destroyed a pre-Clovis people with the same disregard and cruelty that the Spanish and later British did to them. Knowing how most native Americans treated each other, it is a very likely story not discussed in this book.

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- SPB66

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-15-2011
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks