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New Perspectives on the Origins of Americanist Archaeology

Edited by David L. Browman and Stephen Williams, with contributions from Barnhar

Publication Year: 2002

In this landmark book, experienced scholars take a retrospective look at the developing routes that have brought American archaeologists into the 21st century.

In 1996, the Society for American Archaeology's Committee on the History of Archaeology established a biennial symposium
named after Gordon R. Willey, one of the fathers of American archaeology, to focus on the history of the discipline. This volume grew out of the
second symposium, presented at the 1998 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Interest in the intellectual history of the field is certainly nothing new—the first such volume appeared in 1856—but previously, focus has been on individuals and their theories and methods, or on various government agencies that supported, developed, or mandated
excavations in North America. This volume, however, focuses on the roots of Americanist archaeology, including its pre-1915 European connections, and on some of the earliest work by women archaeologists, which has been largely overlooked.

Full of valuable insights for archaeologists and anthropologists—both professional and amateur—into the history and
development of Americanist archaeology, New Perspectives will also inspire and serve as a model for future research.


David Browman is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology at Washington University. Stephen Williams is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Harvard University.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This volume grew out of the Second Gordon R. Willey Biennial Symposium on the History of Archaeology, held at the annual meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in Seattle, Washington, in 1998, where eight of the twelve papers in this volume were initially...

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pp. 1-9

This volume evolved out of a conversation the two of us had at a Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meeting in 1996. We observed that recent discussions on the history of Americanist archaeology as it was perceived to have evolved a century ago seemed to aggregate into predictable clusters: first, contributions from the early work in the...

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1. The Strait of Anian: A Pathway to the New World

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pp. 10-29

The question of what the Strait of Anian1 was and why it should be important to scholars interested in the history of archaeology must be answered at once. This strait, now called the Bering Strait, has played a central role in the discussion of the origins of the American Indians for many centuries (see discussion in chapter 2). ...

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2. “From Whence Came Those Aboriginal Inhabitants of America?” A.D. 1500–1800

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pp. 30-59

The questions of who were the first occupants of the New World, where they came from, and when are more than 500 years old, since they began to be asked from the time the Western Hemisphere was being en-countered by European explorers.1 ...

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3. Roots of the Walam Olum: Constantine Samuel Rafinesque and the Intellectual Heritage of the Early Nineteenth Century

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pp. 60-86

In December 1834, a hastily written letter was sent from Philadelphia to a distinguished committee of scholars in Paris. Penned by the well-known naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783–1840), the letter announced the discovery of an ancient North American epic that...

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4. Toward a Science of Man: European Influences on the Archaeology of Ephraim George Squier

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pp. 87-116

American archaeology’s connections to Europe from the mid– to late nineteenth century are nowhere more evident than in the archaeology of Ephraim George Squier. Ideas about prehistory and topics of Squier’s archaeological investigations, as they did on those of several of his contemporaries. ...

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5. Charles Rau: Developments in the Career of a Nineteenth-Century German-American Archaeologist

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pp. 117-132

I first became aware of the underappreciated importance of Charles Rau’s pioneering work in archaeology during archival work I conducted as part of the archaeological investigations on the East St. Louis mound group (Kelly 1994). My preliminary assessment of Rau is that locally he had an impact on several individuals and their involvement in ar-...

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6. Europe’s Prehistoric Dawn Reproduced: Daniel Wilson’s Magisterial Archaeology

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pp. 133-147

The standard histories of archaeology (Daniel 1967; Trigger 1989;Willey and Sabloff 1993) credit John Lubbock, Lord Avebury, with establishing the science of prehistoric archaeology. In this chapter, I will show that Lubbock’s claim does not stand against the clear priority of Daniel Wilson (Kehoe 1991, 1998). ...

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7. Maine Shell Midden Archaeology (1860–1910) and the Influence of Adolphe von Morlot

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pp. 148-163

The archaeological study of shell middens, which has occupied so much of my professional career, was not a particularly popular pursuit of North American archaeology during the twentieth century. Indeed, a survey of commonly used introductory texts will find no shell middens used as illustrations nor many references to shell middens in the...

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8. Frances Eliza Babbitt and the Growth of Professionalism of Women in Archaeology

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pp. 164-184

Few women were involved in nineteenth-century American archaeology, and even fewer are now remembered. It is clear from comparisons with other natural and social sciences, such as sociocultural anthropology, that women were participating much more successfully in these disciplines. ...

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9. Henry Chapman Mercer: Archaeologist and Cultural Historian

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pp. 185-208

Henry Chapman Mercer (1856–1930) was one of the pioneers in the development of archaeological excavation technique. He employed and published explicit stratigraphic excavation techniques in 1895 in Mexico in his search for Paleoindians some two decades before the work of Manuel Gamio and Franz Boas, and he appears also to have conducted...

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10. Frederic Ward Putnam: Contributions to the Development of Archaeological Institutions and Encouragement of Women Practitioners

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pp. 209-241

One common thread that seemed to recur in the group discussions of the papers presented at the Second Willey Symposium was the underappreciated importance of Frederic Ward Putnam (1839–1915) of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. Either Putnam or the influence of his work at the Peabody Museum seems to be a significant part of the...

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11. Origins of Stratigraphic Excavation in North America: The Peabody Museum Method and the Chicago Method

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pp. 242-264

A number of recent sources have suggested that the “Chicago method”of artificial stratigraphic units revolutionized mound excavation in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, and they have credited its origin to Fay-Cooper Cole. However, evidence suggests that this method of mound excavation was first developed by Frederic Ward Putnam at the...

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12. George Grant MacCurdy: An American Pioneer of Palaeoanthropology

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pp. 265-285

George Grant MacCurdy was one of the principal interpreters to American anthropologists of European research in palaeoanthropology during the first third of the twentieth century. He was born in Warrensburg, Missouri, on April 17, 1863, and was killed in a traffic accident in New Jersey on November 15, 1947. ...


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pp. 287-306


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pp. 307-366


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pp. 367-368


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pp. 369-378

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313258
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817311285

Page Count: 390
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 664233642
MUSE Marc Record: Download for New Perspectives on the Origins of Americanist Archaeology

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Subject Headings

  • Indianists -- United States -- History -- Congresses.
  • United States -- Antiquities -- Congresses.
  • Women archaeologists -- United States -- History -- Congresses.
  • Indians of North America -- Antiquities -- Congresses.
  • Archaeology -- United States -- History -- Congresses.
  • Archaeology -- United States -- Methodology -- Congresses.
  • Anthropology -- United States -- History -- Congresses.
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