Cover image for Bones : discovering the first Americans
Bones : discovering the first Americans
Dewar, Elaine.
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, 2002.

Physical Description:
628 pages : maps ; 24 cm
Asian origins? : Clovis First across the Bering Strait -- Bones 101 : a sordid history begets a compromised science -- Found and lost : the misplaced remains of the accepted path -- The battle for Monte Verde : rewriting the First American story--by committee -- The founding mothers : the spectral trail of mitochondrial DNA -- Virtual bones : are reburied remains hard evidence? -- The Kennewick chronicles : science, history, politics, religion-- and the United States Army -- Excavating the museum shelves : weaving a new image of ancient Americans -- We were always here : some Native American histories -- Pendejo Cave : Indiana Jones digs down to the foundation -- Beneath the Southern Cross : the road leads back in time -- Lunch with Luzia : the fine African features of the oldest woman in the Americas -- Proof parasite : a wormhole in the Bering Strait theory -- Revisionist prehistory : bones beyond the bounds of accepted theory -- Brazilian edens : the sheltered finds of Minas Gerais -- Science contender : dispatches from the most ancient trenches -- Pedra Furada : ancient arts of the little people -- Science under fire : the inquisition of Karl Reinhard -- The Kennewick shuffle : dancing around the hard questions -- The reverse migration : north, by boat -- The corridor that wasn't : the cold facts behind the absence of evidence -- Hard science, hardball politics : Kennewick reevaluated -- Going home : burying the bones, treasuring the past.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E61 .D463 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Bones--the remains of ancient New World natives now lying in museums and university laboratories across the Americas--are at the center of the scientific and cultural battles described in this provocative book. These bones, award-winning investigative journalist Elaine Dewar asserts, challenge the accepted theory that the first Americans descend from a Mongoloid people who migrated across the Bering land bridge to Alaska at the end of the Ice Age 11,000 years ago. With Native American activists, white supremacists, DNA experts, and physical anthropologists--all vying for control of ancient bones like those of the Caucasoid Kennewick Man--Dewar explores the politics of archaeology, history, law, native spirituality, and race relations at work in this scientific battlefield. She reports, too, on the contention among the experts over alternative theories that suggest the New World may have been populated as early as 60,000 years ago, perhaps by Polynesian voyagers who sailed to South America. "Bound to shake archaeologists out of their complacency."--Canadian Geographic "Provocative ... likely to rattle the old bones of orthodoxy."--Calgary Herald

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In this reexamination of Native American origins, Canadian journalist Dewar argues that anthropological science is hampered by national politics, adherence to accepted "truths," reluctance to share finds, and Native American activism aimed at repatriation of Indian skeletal remains. She develops the provocative idea that the story of the colonization of the New World is as long as that of the Old and that the New and the Old Worlds may not be as separate in human origins as has been believed. Challenging the established theory that the First Americans were an Asian people who traversed the Bering Land Bridge to America as late as the last Ice Age, then trekked southward, she takes us on a rummage through basement laboratories and museum shelves for evidence that has been missed or ignored. In particular, she examines what the disputed Kennewick Man find from Washington State--designated alternatively as of Paleo-Indian, Caucasoid, and Ainu-Polynesian morphology--suggests about American prehistory. Controversial but not far-fetched, Dewar's narrative, written with the zest of a travel account, will intrigue amateur archaeologists and readers interested in American Indians. Philip Herbst

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dewar, a Canadian investigative journalist whose expos Cloak of Green probed the dark underbrush of environmental politics, returns here to dust off North American anthropology's skeletons in the closet. The author profiles a handful of scientists whose research debunks the prevailing theory that the first Americans came here on foot from Siberia over the Bering Strait during the last ice age; she also presents controversial archaeological, genetic and folkloric evidence suggesting that humans settled in South America at least 1,000 years earlier. Furthermore, she says, finds like the Caucasoid Kennewick Man, discovered in a Washington State riverbed, suggest that somebody beat the forebears of modern Native Americans to these shores. The truth is out there, but as Dewar argues, proper research has been thwarted time and again by stiff-necked academic careerism, the "dirty water of ethnic politics" and just plain carelessness bones mysteriously "disappear" from museum storerooms, labs forget to conduct crucial DNA studies and so forth. This is popular rather than hard science, and there are gripping moments, but had she written half as much book, Dewar would have told a leaner, more vibrant story. But Dewar is a keen observer of place and personality, and the scientists she interviews are the real heart of the story she wishes to tell which is perhaps why her argument sometimes gets buried in pages of anecdotal narrative. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

We've all been taught that the first Americans crossed a land bridge over the Bering Sea about 11,000 years ago and continued down to Tierra del Fuego, populating two continents. Canadian journalist Dewar (Cloak of Green) explores emerging research that calls into question that venerated theory. In this lengthy, detailed, and well-written story, the author explores the saga of the Kennewick Man, findings in Peru that show dates much earlier than expected, mummies discovered in Nevada that do not fit the accepted time lines, and more to illuminate the current state of archaeology in the Americas. With the flair of a mystery writer, Dewar explores the conflicting theories as they are influenced by academic and personal jealousies, government interference, ethnic concerns, mishandled artifacts all the human and bureaucratic folly that have gotten in the way of the science. A revealing and informative look not only at the archaeology in question but at the convoluted, intricate, and very human difficulties involved in "doing science," this book is recommended for academic and large public libraries or where interest warrants. Ann Forister, Roseville P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The antiquity of human remains found in the Americas was one of the key debates in Americanist archaeology in the opening decades of the 20th century, but by century's end the debate had turned to the question of the ownership of human remains: Were they the property of institutions such as universities and museums, or did they belong to Native American groups that claimed the bones as remains of ancestors? Dewar examines these and other issues in her well-written and researched book. She is not a professionally trained archaeologist or physical anthropologist, but she appears well versed in the pros and cons of the various contentious issues that continue to swirl around prehistoric human remains. Nonprofessionals will find her writing nontechnical and enjoyable. Professionals will pay more attention to the juicy tidbits that she drops with respect to their friends and colleagues. All in all, Dewar presents a fairly balanced treatment of the current issue of the ownership of human remains, although it is clear she sides with Native Americans. For readers who want more coverage of this issue, see David H. Thomas's Skull Wars (CH, Oct'00). Useful references to the issues and a good index recommend this book for all levels. M. J. O'Brien University of Missouri--Columbia



Introduction This book begins with a simple question. Where did Native Americans come from? I know I was given an answer when I was just a child, before I had learned enough about the world, and enough about how we learn about the world, to eve ask the question for myself. This answer was a comfort to immigrants and the children of immigrants as they broke ground, built towns and cities from one end of the hemisphere to the other, and muscles aside the descendants of people who were in the Americas before them. It often popped up before the question could be formed, particularly in those scarce moments of moral hesitation when new immigrants came face to face with those they had displaced, and recognized that Native Americans were suffering and dying even as they, the newcomers, prospered. For more than a century this answer was ready for anyone who needed it: Native Americans came from somewhere else--from Asia. All are descendants of the same immigrant people. I was born in the middle of the twentieth century on the Great Plains--in the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I am the grandchild of immigrants from Eastern Europe who arrived there when it was still a frontier called the Northwest Territories. The government of Canada promised free land if my grandparents would go to the Prairies and bust the sod. And so they left the wars and racism and religious hatreds of Russia and Romania, migrating halfway around the globe to the New World. They helped to colonize the beautiful and frigid prairies. Their first homes were sod houses, built of the thick squares of turf they cut out of the ground. They were known as pioneers, as if no one had ever been there before them. If they had regrets about being part of a process that ended the ancient and complex relationship between Native peoples and their lands, I never heard them discuss it. By the time I came along, they were city folk with their own businesses (although my mother's father held fast to his northern farm for many years, not letting go even after his tractor fell on him, when he was eighty-five). Native people had been pushed so far to the margins of society that my contact with them came mainly at fairs and parades and multicultural festivals where ethnics of all sorts came forward, in costume, to sing their foreign songs and dance their foreign dances. We were all immigrants together in the New World and therefore in my mind we were equivalent: we came from Eastern Europe, they came from Asia. I did the hora, they had their powwows, their drums and their fancy dancing. We came on boats and built the railroads. Exactly how they came was a matter to be determined by science because they had no written histories, just stories about their origins, encased in languages that no one but the old people spoke anymore. Governments and church schools tried to wipe those languages away because they interfered with the process of making Native Americans just like everybody else. If the Native people were unhappy about that we didn't hear of it. (How could they complain? Status Indians in Canada only got the right to vote in 1960.) It was up to science to dig up the Truth -- and teach it to them. Excerpted from Bones: Discovering the First Americans by Elaine Dewar All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.