Cover image for The great journey : the peopling of ancient America
The great journey : the peopling of ancient America
Fagan, Brian M.
Personal Author:
Updated edition.
Publication Information:
Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 2004.

Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E61 .F333 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From reviews of the first edition:

"Most of us are acquainted with the European discovery of America, but how and when did American Indians occupy the continent? That's the fascinating puzzle Fagan discusses here--and he reveals himself as a meticulous, skeptical researcher. . . . The upshot is an informative, balanced, and often exciting account."-- Kirkus

"This is an admirable introduction to questions that have exercised men ever since the discovery of the Americas."-- New York Times Book Review

"For fans of Jean M. Auel's best-selling novels, Fagan's book provides a much-needed and up-to-date summary of the facts on which her books about Ice Age humans are loosely based."-- Los Angeles Times

How, where, when, and why did human beings take the first steps in their journey to populate North America? First published in 1987, The Great Journey tells the story of the search for the first Americans--one of archaeology's great controversies. An enhanced edition of this dramatic narrative and real-life mystery follows the trail of evidence from the Old World to the New, beginning with an update on the debates and discoveries that have taken place since the late 1980s. Fagan presents the latest archaeological findings on both sides of the Bering Strait, new genetic and linguistic research that amplifies earlier theories, and he assesses the importance of global warming to first settlement.

The saga of how Asians came across the Bering Sea land bridge begins with the emergence of modern humans in tropical Africa some 150,000 years ago. Fagan describes the great Homo sapiens diaspora, which included the settlement of America, during the late Ice Age. He evaluates the various routes that brought Stone Age hunter-gatherers from Siberia into North America and beyond.

This magnificently readable book, widely regarded as a classic of archaeological writing, sets forth different scenarios for first settlement, the controversies over the extinction of large Ice Age animals, and a brief overview of cultural developments since the time of the Paleo-Indians. Lavishly illustrated with maps, photographs, and line drawings, the updated edition of The Great Journey offers an entertaining yet sober assessment of what we know about the first

Brian M. Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Author Notes

Brian M. Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

How North America became populated has been a subject of controversy and wonder since the sixteenth century. Fagan, a noted anthropologist, collects data from many differing viewpoints and presents a coherent, highly readable work on how thousands of early humans crossed the arctic ``bridge'' to ancient America. In so doing, he offers compelling evidence on the early availability of transportation, foodstuffs, clothing, and shelter. This excellent work is enhanced by appropriate maps, ilustrations, photographs, and drawings. No index. JMM. 970.1 Paleo-Indians / North America Antiquities / South America Antiquities / Man, Prehistoric America

School Library Journal Review

YAAmerican students traditionally study Indians of North America, but lit tle attention is paid to the original set tlement of the American continents. Here is a thorough discussion of the most probable routes that those original cave people took from Siberia, mov ingover thousands of years throughout North America and on into South America. Fagan methodically describes sites of early human habita tion which have been excavated and carefully dated and also describes vari ous controversies of method and con tent. While the book's factual content sounds imposing, Fagan's writing style is easy and relaxed, making all the in formation accessible and fascinating to lay readers, high-school students in cluded. Photographs and diagrams complete Fagan's effort, and the care ful index allows easy research by lo cale, tool use, age of excavation, etc. Books on archaeological methods, finds, and reconstruction of the history of other areas of the world are common in high-school libraries; it is time one of this quality be available on the Ameri cas. Dorcas Hand, Episcopal High School, Bellaire (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Fagan (University of California, Santa Barbara) was trained in anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge University, initially worked in East Africa, and is a much published author (e.g., most recently, Clash of Cultures, 1984, The Adventures of Archaeology, 1985, New Treasure of the Past, 1987). The Great Journey was meant as a text for a course on the earliest Americans. By culling through a mass of new but obscure scholarly papers, Fagan presents a conservative and very carefully reasoned overview. The Americas were peopled by Homo sapiens sapiens from Eastern Europe, who had become cold-weather-adapted as of 35,000 years ago. They expanded to western Siberia and finally to northeasternmost Asia by about 18,000 years ago, the Yukon at the Canadian border by 15,000 years ago, and pushed through a corridor that opened between continental glaciers after 12,000 years ago. The big game on which they lived disappeared-except for bison-about 11,000 years ago. Unfortunately, Fagan discusses inaccurately the margin of error in radiocarbon dating. Nonetheless, this superb update should be held in libraries from high school through university level.-A.R. Pilling, Wayne State University

Table of Contents

Update of the 2004 Editionp. vii
Introduction: An Archaeological Dramap. 7
Part 1 Ideas
1. Friars, Antiquarians, and Moundbuildersp. 15
2. Palaeoliths and Extinct Animalsp. 35
Part 2 Ancestry
3. In the Beginningp. 59
Act 1, scene 1 Africa, Europe, and Asia from about 2 million to 35,000 years ago
4. Modern Humans Take the Stagep. 73
Act 1, scene 2 Europe and Asia 35,000 to 15,000 years ago
Part 3 The Crossing
5. Beringiap. 101
Act 2, scene 1 The Bering Strait 35,000 to 15,000 years ago
6. Alaska and the Yukon Territoryp. 119
Act 2, scene 2 The northwestern reaches of the New World
Part 4 The First Americans
7. The Ice-Free Corridor?p. 137
8. On the Track of the Earliest Settlersp. 145
Act 3, scene 1 The Americas before 11,500 years ago
9. The Clovis People and their Forebearsp. 177
Act 3, scene 2 North America at the end of the Ice Age
Part 5 The Great Diversity
10. The Bison Huntersp. 199
11. The Northern Worldp. 221
12. Epilogp. 239
Further Readingp. 263
Acknowledgmentsp. 276
List of Illustrationsp. 277
Indexp. 281