As the tour guide for this fascinating trip across the Golden State, the author will take uou to visit distinct societies in widely constrasting environments : Chumash villages on the Santa Barbara coast, shell mounds in the San Francisco Bay, salmon trappers of the northern streams, acorn gatherers of the Central Valley, and shamans who painted a multitude of mysterious figures on stone.
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Brian Fagan is the best-known popular writer on archaeology in the United States, author of two dozen books and several leading textbooks in archaeology. He is professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara.Review:
Famed archaeologist Brian Fagan has produced a captivating and readable account of the first 12,000 years of California history....Students of California history will find Before California a welcome addition to the history of the Golden State. (American Archaeology)
In his fascinating, even topical new look at the archaeology of California, UC Santa Barbara anthropology professor Brian Fagan gets on our good side from the outset. He knows that most general readers will probably approach his book out of interest in California, rather than in archaeology. Wisely then, Before California takes early and frequent pains to reassure us that Fagan has far more than potsherds and milling stones on his mind. Right from the beginning, the tone is smart and layman-friendly, with parallels to modern California neither forced nor ignored. (San Francisco Chronicle)
This sweeping history of early California, which covers almost 13,000 years of settlement and colonisation, is written with the widest possible readership in mind and, as such, it avoids jargon and more specialized fields...The result is an intelligent and well-presented archaeological assesment of the evidence for California's environment and peoples through the millennia. (Oxbow Book News)
The first comprehensive guide to California archaeology and prehistory designed for a general audience... few authors have undertaken such a monumental book project...for more than a quarter century [Fagan] has been doing the difficult and under-appreciated work of translating often turgid and inaccessible scholarship into highly readable books that recruit undergraduate majors to the discipline in droves and bolster public support for archaeological research and preservation...he brings his readers along as equals, on what is clearly his own voyage of discovery...Before California is a welcome addition to the popular literature on California history and culture. It fills an obvious gap on the shelves of public libraries, bookstores, secondary schools and museum gift shops. (Terri Castaneda, Dept. of Anthropology, California State University Sacramento H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online, Oct. 2003)
Brian Fagan is one of those rare scholars who has made a determined and successful effort to bring the excitement of archaeology to the public. A widely respected archaeologist and author of some 30 books, he provides us, in Before California, with a tour of the Golden State long before the decimation of its native peoples began in the 18th and 19th centuries. Combining his far-reaching knowledge of archaeology with a unique ability to synthesize information from diverse fields, Fagan presesnts an informative rendering of California's past...Before California is crammed with fascinating archaeological details, but rather than simply recounting 'the facts,' Fagan successfully intertwines [the] main threads that serve to organize this wide-ranging foray onto California's past. (Donald Johanson, author, Lucy: The Beginning of Humankind Los Angeles Times, Nov. 23, 2003)
Using artifacts, anthropological studies and tree-ringing sequences, archaeologist Brian Fagan explains the changing gender roles, climactic shifts and trading patterns that shaped the lives of the Golden State's first inhabitants. (Archaeology Odyssey)
In his most recent book, Before California, Brian Fagan offers an entertaining synopsis of California's archaeology that highlights creative human adaptation to an ever-changing environment...[Fagan is] well qualified to write the first book-length synopsis of California archaeology in almost twenty years. Thus, Before California fills a lacuna in the literature, and Fagan's entertaining style will appeal to many...he enjoys telling stories and he does it well...Before California binds together an interesting array of facts with narratives that emphasise 'the flexible ingenuity' by which ancient Californians adapted to 'harsh, never predictable environments.' To scholars, it offers an up-to-date synopsis of California's archaeology in a single package...appropriate for modern Californians interested in a readable synopsis of their state's archaeology. (Professor Walter J. Bowyer, Scandling Center, Hobart and William Smith Colleges Rock Art Research, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2003)
In this highly readable and enlightening book, archaeologist Brian Fagan bridges the gulf that separates today's Californian's from their predecessors....Anyone who wants to understand California needs to read this book. Fagan is an eminent scholar, and he did not sacrifice scientific knowledge for the sake of readability. Instead, he has asked big questions, then cut through the arcane to tell us, broadly, what is known, what can be surmised, and what is still being debated. It's all woven into a story that makes history come alive. (RG California Coast & Ocean)
This is a detailed, very solid, overview of California Arcaeology, with scads of illustration and all of the bells and whistles of scholarship―ends-notes, bibliography, index. (The California Territorial Quarterly)
Fagan explains dramatic changes in regional culures and populations while also recognizing their continuity and intensive interaction...Authoritative and written in a narrative style, the book is often enhanced with vivid scenarios based on material evidence and reasonable speculation...Highly recommended. (K.A. Dixon (emeritus), California State University, Long Beach CHOICE)
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