Taking the really long view
February 10, 2021 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I'd really like to read a great book (or two?) about the earliest migrations of people to the North/South American continent (I'm not even sure what to call that...). I'm talking WAAAAAAYYYYY back in time, not the colonial or even pre-colonial period.

In particular, I'm interested in how people got there (Bering land bridge???), when and over what period of time, and I'm really interested in learning about how people dispersed throughout the continent, including how people organized themselves into communities/societies/civilizations. Maybe this is more than one book!?

I am considering picking up something like 1491, though from a cursory look I think that maybe focuses more on the period when these civilizations were really up and running, whereas I am really interested in how they got to that point, if that makes sense.

I am looking for well researched/non-assholic approaches to history, but it can certainly be geared towards a more casual reader (flashback to the time I thought Gotham would be a great, light read about the history of New York City!!!).
posted by Mrs. Rattery to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't be surprised to learn his coverage of North Amercian prehistory is a little out of date, but I love Colin McEvedy's Historical Atlas series to get a quick overview. His Atlas of North American History to 1870 covers exactly what you're looking for in about three pages plus maps. Let me know if you'd like me to just post scans of those pages.
posted by caek at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2021

I feel like there's very regularly new data on this, so searching Google Scholar for terms like "pre-Clovis" may meet your need. For example, here's a recent issue of The SAA Archaeological Record full of relatively general overviews of the topic (see especially pages 34-44).
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:10 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Historian Patrick Wyman, who also hosts the Tides of History podcast, writes a lot about this period, including this recent post and this other recent post. I'm sure you could dig through the archives for more, and he also recommends books often.
posted by General Malaise at 10:18 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've no training in relevant fields and still have very specific complaints. But, I enjoyed reading Rutherford's A brief history of everyone who ever lived.
posted by eotvos at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2021

Seconding 1491, and would also call attention to Michener’s Alaska. It gives theories about the first people across the land bridge and how their communities migrated and evolved.
posted by serendipityrules at 7:14 PM on February 10, 2021

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