Lunch with colleagues the pandemic way

Hi everyone,

Tomorrow I’m having lunch with an archeologist friend of mine, carryout ribs, seated socially distant around a conference table in his department. Neal Lopinot, Director of the Center for Archeological Research at Southwest Missouri State University, was helpful in every way when I was researching and writing MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES (Boyds Mills Press, 2010), the story of the search for the first humans to arrive on the North American continent. Via phone and e-mail he introduced me to several of the key players in North and South Americas whose research and discoveries have unearthed important clues about the long standing mystery. They provided me with pictures from their major sites, responded to my questions, one or two even read and critiqued my manuscript in progress. It was by far the most complex story I’ve ever written about and the best book of nonfiction I’ve ever done.

Reviews liked the book a lot.
“David Harrison has managed to effectively, succinctly, and understandably decipher the myriad
issues involved in understanding the peopling process for a young audience in a way no other author
has.” — J. M. Adovasio, Ph.D., D.Sc, Director, Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute

“It is a well written, thoughtful and data rich discussion of how archaeologists view the peopling of the New World.” — Richard Boisvert, State Archaeologist, NH Division of Historical Resources

“Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones: the Mystery of North America’s First People” is a fine middle
school ages 9-11 teaching book about the search for early North American human settlers and
ancestors and their origins…Children have a first rate opportunity to learn the basics of scientific scrutiny of a theory about human history and prehistory. — James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief Midwest Book Review

MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES was recommended by National Science Teachers Association and nominated for the Society for American Archaeology’s 2010 Book of the Year for “a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience.” I didn’t win but was extremely flattered by the book’s recognition.

Neal, Jack Ray (Assistant Director of the Center), and I get together now and then to catch up on one another’s news. I follow some of their actions through the Archeology Journal that I subscribe to, but getting it first hand is far more interesting.

The Purchase of Small Secrets

Hi everyone,

CCI12202015_00000My new Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly just arrived. I started taking the journal and supporting the society when I was working on MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES, a book about the search for the first migrants to the North American continent. This was partly because of my lifelong interest in archaeology and partly in gratitude to Neal Lopinot, Director of the Center for Archaeological Research at Missouri State University, for his tremendous help when I was preparing the book. MAMMOTH BONES AND BROKEN STONES

One of the articles in this issue is about the history of Native American occupation of Shannon County, Missouri’s second largest county. It’s an area of worn ridges and shallow valleys, a place where water comes from numerous large springs and rivers, and which has long been an inviting habitat for humans and animals. The first known humans to live in the area were Clovis people some 11,000 years ago. They were followed, 1,000 years or so later, by Dalton Indians. How do we know this? A good deal of the evidence comes from the stone points they left behind.

Every culture of Native Americans had distinctive styles for the points they used for knives, spear heads, hide scrapers, and so on. When archaeologists unearth points identified with a specific group, it helps fill in the map of when and where those early people moved about the country. Piece together enough of these human maps through the efforts of scientists across our continent and we slowly come to understand more about life toward the end of the most recent glaciation, which ended roughly 12,000 years ago.

What fascinates me about these glimpses into the past is that although it’s hard in a modern society to imagine life ten millennia ago, we need to remember that those people were in most ways little different from us today. Humans (Homo sapiens) developed in Africa probably some 200,000 years ago. By the time Native American were populating this continent, our species had existed for 190,000 years more or less.

When I was a boy collecting what we used to call arrowheads, I gave little thought to the hands that had fashioned that work of art that had such practical value to life in those times. Now, when I hold a stone point, I sometimes try to imagine what it might have been like on the day it was created. I wrote a poem about it in THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS.

By David L. Harrison
From The Purchase of Small Secrets

See this?
Too thin
for an arrowhead.

Maybe a chip
from the weapon
being made
by a master craftsman,
flint in one hand
antler tip in the other,
strong wrists
a new stone point.

Did he pause
in these woods
silent alone
or was he surrounded
by chuckling comrades
who winked at secrets
as flint chips fell?

It doesn’t matter
the chip was rejected
by the arrowhead.

I accept it
as a gift
from an unknown hand.

(c) Boyds Mills Press
By permission of the author