Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory

Stephen Williams

Published by University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991
ISBN 10: 0812213122 / ISBN 13: 9780812213126
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Synopsis: The landscape of the nineteenth century, Williams asserts, is dotted with fakes, frauds, and humbugs whose fantastic claims of purported findings would make even P. T. Barnum blush. In Fantastic Archaeology, Williams takes them all on with gusto-illuminating, debunking, and instructing on the modes, methods, manners, and manifestations of American archaeology through the past two centuries. The author begins his walk on the wild side of North American archaeology with a fascinating introduction to the continent's real past. Then, acting as detective, he answers the questions, Who Found It? Who Done It? Who Twisted the Facts? From solemn old professionals like Samuel Haven to eccentric "odd fishes" like Constantine Rafinesque, from brash "free thinkers" like Harold S. Gladwin to stoic strategists like A. V. Kidder, Williams enthusiastically portrays them all. The big issues are here, too: the quest for the first Americans, the transoceanic search for links to distant civilizations, and the meaning of ancient writings. From monstrous stone giants to mysterious messages from the past, right up to the real story of America's archaeological past, the author unearths a wondrous tale that will amaze, delight, and inform professional and general readers alike.

Review: "What a bundle of wishes, folly, and fraud is here unpacked."-Scientific American "A cheerful and delightful excursion into the realms of fraud, hucksterism, wretched excess, and wishful thinking... From Indiana Jones to Lost Atlantis, from mysticism to Mu, Williams reviews the colorful characters and misguided theories which have excited the public, and exasperated mainstream archaeologists."-Michael Crichton "This book provides entertaining reading for professional archaeologist and advanced students, insight for undergraduates, and eye-opening information for the general public. The only ones who may not want to read it are those who are committed to one of the myriad forms of pseudoarchaeology."-Choice "Engagingly written, the book's clear discussion of a variety of archaeological controversies is readily accessible to the general reader and should be of interest to both lay people and professional scholars alike."-Nature "This is a book to cherish and enjoy. The book demonstrates once again how many ways there are for people to mislead other people, particularly in areas where emotions become involved in objective assessments of scientific evidence."-Anthro Notes "Williams-has produced a book that provides not only some very enjoyable reading but also a truly useful historical perspective on the role of fantasies-and some fantastic personalities-in the development of American archaeology."-Archaeology "Fantastic Archeology will appeal to nonprofessionals, students of archeology, and professional archeologists. This book should be read by any archeologist concerned with educating the public about the past, and perhaps will encourage more professional archeologists with a talent for writing to produce popular works."-American Anthropologist "Much of the strength of this book is derived from Williams's recognition that fantastic archaeology has been an integral part of American archaeology from its earliest days, that the border between the fantastic and the scientific is problematical, and that weird ideas often fill real social needs... It is a major contribution to a growing literature dealing with the less disciplined side of North American archaeology ... work that clearly has so much to offer archaeologists and the general public."-Bulletin of the History of Archaeology

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Title: Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of ...
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Publication Date: 1991
Book Condition: Good
Edition: Second printing.

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