North American Archaeology by Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (eds)

Eras Journal – Hale, A: Review of “North American Archaeology”,Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (eds)

Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (eds), North American Archaeology,
Blackwell Publishing, Carlton, Victoria, 2005
Isbn 0631231846

As the latest edition to Blackwell’s series of studies in Global Archaeology, North American Archaeology offers a new outlook on mature ideas. Edited by Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren, North American Archaeology, provides a refreshing perspective to currently accepted views of archaeological theories and practices by illustrating fundamental concepts in an innovative fashion through the introduction of pioneering methodologies.

Compiled of fifteen articles, which are broken down into key regional and thematic areas of archaeological study,North American Archaeology presents not necessarily an all-encompassing view but introduces novel concepts for the modern reader to consider. Geared towards upper level undergraduate archaeology students and tutors there is a distinct focus on the past and present relationships between persons, places, and materials in terms of existing and untested theories.

Using case studies, Pauketat and Loren illustrate current issues concerning the cultural and historical processes in North America whilst incorporating these ideas into a global perspective.

The first chapter by Pauketat and Loren deals with the concept of “Alternative Histories and North American Archaeology”, where the idea of culture is fluid (1). This chapter gives a brief history of beliefs in regards to the stereotyping of ethnicities, ideologies, and cultures, while recognizing that North American peoples worked and manipulated the landscape to create a possible future. J.M. Adovasio and David Pedler’s chapter deals with the recurring question, where do North Americans come from? This chapter points to the early stereotypes based on physical appearance and how through the use of modern technology such as DNA tests, anthropologists and archaeologists are revising previously accepted concepts.

Chapters three through to ten discuss social complexity and its relationship to subsistence.

Kenneth M. Ames in chapter three focuses on Western North America using four case studies to represent the differing geographic scales in order to illustrate his belief of a hunter gatherer trend from simple to complex. Kenneth E. Sassaman’s chapter four, William S. Dancey’s chapter five and Pauketat’s chapter eight are centred around the social complexity of mound sites in the archaic Southeast that incorporated complex ritual and hierarchical structures; the Hopewell of the Eastern Woodlands that also incorporated prestige mound building, trade and exchange; and the forgotten history of the Mississippian mound sites together with the construction of the past through experiences. Elizabeth Chilton’s chapter six concentrates on subsistence choices such as farming and socio-political relationships in the Northeast while Dale R. Henning’s chapter seven examines the evolution of the plains village tradition from the middle Missouri to movement and settlement. In chapter nine Michelle Hegmon discusses inequality in Southwest villages, focusing on social inequality in the pre-Hispanic United States while illustrating the differences in access to ritual knowledge. In chapter ten Stephen H. Lekson argues the hierarchical centralized government in the Southwest was never really successful and uses Chaco canyon as an example.

The remaining chapters starting with eleven through to thirteen address the issues of, homogenization with Stephen W. Silliman’s European arrival, Loren’s creolization, and Theresa A. Singleton’s arrival of African Americans. Silliman summarizes a few highlights and revelations of the past few decades in regards to pre and post contact archaeology. Loren delves into the world of cultural transformation or creolization in the French and Spanish colonies of the 17th and 18th centuries. Last but not least Singleton’s chapter thirteen illustrates the varying degree of African American life on the Atlantic Seaboard using Ira Berlins’ 1998 three region subdivision indicating a distinctive social development for each region. Chapters fourteen and fifteen deal with more modern problems such as Joe Watkins’ focus on the representation and repatriation of the past through a general outline of the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA) and the Native American Graves Protection Rights Act (NAGPRA). Watkins also presents a brief overview of the Kennewick Man debate. The final chapter fifteen written by Dean J. Saitta covers labour and class in the American West during the 20th century specifically addressing the shift in historical archaeology from classic to counter-classic studies using the example of the Ludlow Tent Colony Massacre in Southern Colorado as a prime example of industrial violence.

North American Archaeology does possess some weaknesses such as the need for a more historically backgrounded approach, especially for the first two chapters. Founding concepts and ideas should be acknowledged if nothing else, to give a basic understanding of the older views and why such new aforementioned theories are innovative. This book illustrates the concepts and ideas currently circulating in the realm of North American archaeology or should I say American archaeology considering there is virtually no mention of Canada and there also appears to be a large focus on the Southwest and the Southeast.

Regardless of these weaknesses, as a compilation of various articles strung together to form a cohesive body of work, North American Archaeology demonstrates modern concepts which challenge previous theories about archaeology and the way in which archaeologists view the world. It is a highly enjoyable and informative read for those with a North American background and even for those who want to learn about new theories in the area of North American archaeology.

Amanda Hale

Flinders University