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The absorbing story of the first people to set foot in North America and the many cultures of their descendants.
For thousands of years nomadic people from east Asia followed caribou walking east. Sometime around 20,000 BCE, they crossed the land bridge into North America. These waves of people are the ancestors to every culture on the continent. Tony Aveni, whose expertise is the scientific, mathematical, and cultural accomplishments of the first Americans, celebrates the disparate cultures by highlighting one or two from each region of the country: the Taino, the Iroquois, the Adena, the Anasazi, the Kwakiutl, and the Timucua.
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Grade 4-6-Aveni mixes anthropology and archaeology to describe seven early cultures. The book opens some 20,000 years ago in Beringia (the now-submerged land between Siberia and Alaska) and attempts to assemble evidence that all points to one basic conclusion: The native tribes of North and South America-¦all descended from those-¦who crossed the land bridge from Asia to discover America. This is by no means a universally accepted thesis, and is made in the face of the author's own passing acknowledgement of the possibility of a sea route. Succeeding chapters, liberally illustrated with full-color paintings and photos, cover the food, dress, social organization, and religion of the Taíno; League of the Iroquois; the Ohio Moundbuilders; the Anasazi; the Kwakiutl, Tlingit, and Haida; the Timucua; and the Mississippian pyramid city of Cahokia. A final chapter details the branches of science involved in putting the puzzle pieces of origins together and explains the methods used to determine age. The layout is attractive, but the photos are not always clear. Also, the organization can be problematic, with special-topic pages inserted in the middle of continuing text and inconsistent phonetic pronunciations. The strength of the book is the author's style and enthusiasm. This is an intriguing account, but the author's insistence on a single route of migration seems a misleading representation of current thought. Patricia Lauber's Who Came First? (National Geographic, 2003) questions the limited-to-the-land-bridge idea, but does not go into detailed cultural descriptions. Buy if interest warrants and if you have other titles to balance the approach.-Nancy Palmer, The Little School, Bellevue, WA
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