Dr. James Adovasio, director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, will discuss and sign his new book, titled “The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology’s Greatest Mystery” and authored with Jake Page, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, during a reception at the Erie Book Store, which is located in Lovell Place, 137 E. 13th St. The book was released on Aug. 20.
The book will formally debut on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Adovasio will discuss and sign copies of the volume at several sites, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, N.Y., on Sunday, Sept. 8, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Published by Random House, the 352-page hardcover volume will retail for $25.95 and bring alive the world of archaeology as seen through the eyes of one of the most famous archaeologists in the United States.
It has been nearly 30 years since Adovasio and his team discovered the Meadowcroft Rockshelter archaeology site in Washington County, Pa.; found while Adovasio was simply looking for a summer school field site for his students. What he uncovered – traces of human existence from a span of 16,000 to perhaps 19,000 years ago – rocked the scientific community.
Until Meadowcroft was excavated, the first Americans were thought to have been a band of hunters who crossed the Bering Straight during the Ice Age (some 12,000 years ago) – a theory based on the discovery of a spear point in Clovis, N.M., in the 1930s.
When the Meadowcroft dig revealed circular fire pits, flaked stones, and a 3-inch-long spear point called a lanceolate (a style not known before in the New World) from humans who arrived long before “Clovis Man,” Adovasio launched a scientific debate and turned the archaeology world on its ear.
What has happened since that discovery fuels “The First Americans.” Adovasio begins his book by putting Meadowcroft into its historical context; he then details methods of discovery, explains his own work and that of others in the field, and describes how the particulars of those efforts have fueled a debate about who the first Americans were and what they tell us about our past and ourselves.
The following are excerpts from reviews of the book:
This book offers us a frank exploration of the often-nasty debates that swirl around the earliest archaeological sites that the Americas have to offer and the archaeologists who study them. A book like this could be written only by a bold insider, someone who has long worked in the area, has participated in all the debates, knows all the players, and is fearless. Adovasio is all these things. He is also honest; insofar as I have first-hand knowledge of the events described in this book, his account rings true. Participants in the debate are forewarned: the gloves are off here. – Donald K. Grayson, Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington
“The First Americans” will take you down the meanest streets in archaeology. James Adovasio is the perfect guide to the science, the infighting, and the passion surrounding a deceptively simple question: when was the Western Hemisphere first peopled? Read to find where the bodies are buried. Read for enjoyment. But above all, read for honest answers. –Clive Gamble, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Adovasio is regionally known as the father of the Mercyhurst archaeology department, which was launched upon his arrival in 1990. But it was Adovasio’s highly successful excavations at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter from 1973 to 1979 that earned him an international reputation as one of the world’s leading archaeologists. A long-term research associate with the Smithsonian Institution and the Carnegie Museum, his work and research accomplishments have been the subject of articles in Time, The Smithsonian Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Geographic and the New York Times.
In addition to leading the Mercyhurst archaeology/anthropology/geology department to an internationally recognized level, Adovasio has become heavily involved in the efforts of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Adovasio, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, earned his bachelor of arts in anthropology, magna cum laude, from the University of Arizona in 1965 and his doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Utah in 1970.
Jake Page is a former editor of Natural History magazine and science editor of The Smithsonian Magazine, as well as founder of the Natural History Press and Smithsonian Books. An essayist and mystery novelist, he is the author of 15 popular books on the natural sciences and American Indians. He lives in Corrales, N.M.
For more information about “The First Americans,” please contact
Todd Doughty, (212) 572-4995