Archeaology sources: Four Stone Hearth 7

High school history courses tend to brush over “prehistory” in America, that part of history between the arrival of the first humans in the Americas and the arrival of Europeans with quill and paper to record what they saw and what they did. For a few kids this would be the most exciting part of the course; for all kids, my experience is that textbooks tend to short change what we know, and especially how we know it.

A key problem for the non-archaeologist high school history teacher is just where to find information about prehistory.

A few archaeologists are blogging, and bitten by the meme virus of the moment, they gather together the better posts of recent weeks into a “carnival.” Four Stone Hearth is a carnival of archaeology. Four Stone Hearth 7, hosted by Aardvarchaeology, has several posts that can provide good information for history classes.

Students should learn skepticism in history classes, why to doubt fantastic claims and just-so stories, and how to evaluate sources of information and find good ones. Students often brought in stories intended to debunk standard histories, often involving UFOs or supernatural claims. Hot Cup of Joe’s entry, “Forbidden Archaeology? Some So-called Out of Place Artifacts,” explains the problems of OOPAs — out-of-place artifacts — often claimed to show that most archaeologists or other scientists withhold information that would confirm some of the more wacko ideas about history and prehistory. In the explanation he casts righteous doubt on a bizarre book that is wildly popular among conspiracy buffs, Atlantis Rising.

Students might also be interested in a report from Remote Central on objects found under glacial deposits in Minnesota which have some appearances of being knapped stone tools. This story could form a neat exercise in a series of lessons on what we know about history, and how we know it.

6 Responses to Archeaology sources: Four Stone Hearth 7

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Lots of room here. No clog blog commenting. Comment away!


  2. Tim says:

    Stone Age Columbus

    Sorry to clog up your comments, but here’s another couple of links I forgot to post – the first is basically the details of a BBC documentary screened in the last couple of years, and looks into the work of Bruce Bradley and Dennis Stanford, both from the Smithsonian – at how Europeans may have reached America from Ice Age Europe, in this instance around 20,000 bp.

    Also featured are Jim Adovasio, Michael Collins et al, as well as looking at the life-ways of modern eskimos to discover how their survival techniques could easily have been just as relevant to Ice Age travellers of 20,000 bp.

    Included is a transcript of the programme, plus other bits and pieces. Although the video isn’t available as part of the package, here’s a link to BBC Active, which allows you to license a programme for institutional use, so maybe it’s accessible through this avenue.

    While I’m here, here’s another link, to the Arctic Studies Center, which I think is something to do with Dennis Stanford, but it’s definitely part of the Smithsonian, and well worth a peek.

    best, Tim


  3. Tim says:

    Center First Americans/ Mammoth Trumpet

    Hi – sorry about the missing link, hope this works now. I’m not sure if 50,000 years for the earliest Americans will appear in any text book for a while – work is still in progress at the Topper site, in South Carolina, but the indications are that this proposed date is good – but even then, it’s by no means clear from where these people would have originated, or even how they arrived in the New World, i.e. by land or by sea.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    The Texas history text I used this year mentioned Clovis, but the “correct” answer according to the text was that humans have been in the Americas for at least 37,000 years. I was frankly surprised. There were no details beyond the year, however, and the suggested path was the old Bering Strait landbridge. Much to my surprise, not even the Baptists in the classes complained about the dates given. These books are updated at least once a decade in Texas, so they shouldn’t be more than four or five years behind, if things go well.

    The Irving, Texas, Independent School District gives laptops to all high school students and most of the junior high students, too — on-line during class is supposed to be part of the course, but it’s not realized well in all cases (or more than a few cases that I know of). In other high school classes computers are regular features, though one keyboard per student is not a common ratio.

    The 50,000 year figure is not one I’ve seen in any text, but I’ve not looked for that specific item in the past two years — any readers know better?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the links — but the second one didn’t come through. Can you repost it?

    If someone were to gin up a session with the state history teachers to go over prehistory in detail, and include the U.S. history first part (prior to Reconstruction), I think you’d see teachers adding units on these finds. The books don’t cover them well, the standards are fuzzy, and so it would take someone showing a great way to make the presentation to get it going. I wish more university programs would consider a four-hour continuing education session to bring the local public school teachers up to date.


  5. Tim says:

    Hi, and thanks for referring to my essay on the peopling of the Americas, via Four Stone Hearth, and I noticed you mention the problem of addressing American prehistory, which I gather is taught as part of a normal history class, but generally not in much detail. The peopling of the Americas is one of the great, and as yet untold, stories from the Late Stone Age, and one that proves America has a history and heritage far greater and much older than is generally recognised.

    This subject in particular is a hot topic for debate amongst palaeoanthropologists, and as such there is a wealth of good material on the Web. At the moment, unless you subscribe to expensive journals, the Web is probably the best place to catch up on recent developments in this field – and although I’ve never seen a US history teaching book, it’s my guess that a Clovis First paradigm is what most of them go with. This represents on the main problems about how new research is disseminated – although there are numerous clues to pre-Clovis settlements all across the Americas, there is still no ‘official’ version of the facts that effectively dismisses Clovis as an initial settlement event – and I think printed material such as books tends to lag behind cutting-edge research, simply by virtue of the fact that it takes a lot of time and money to produce books, and discoveries at present are coming too thick for book publishers to readily react.

    Two good starting points, both online, might be the Centre for the Studies of the First Americans, as well as the Archaeology Channel, a resource which provides free video, including a very good one on the Topper Site, in South Carolina, wherein finds indicate a human presence there going back 50,000 years, some 38,000 years earlier than the accepted dates for Clovis.

    I don’t know if history courses are taught within an environment whereby the students can be online during class, but I think some/all lessons conducted thus would be a great opportunity for students to read up quality research and discussion, as well as giving them access to images and multimedia components.

    Here are some links which might be of interest to teachers of history:

    1 They Were Here: Ice Age Humans in South Carolina: (26 mins)

    2 Center First Americans/ Mammoth Trumpet


  6. mpb says:

    This may not apply directly to primary and secondary school history classes, but I have long argued (with struggling success) that the greatest source of Native American (American Indian and Alaska Native) history is actually in the archaeology courses at the local college.

    [By “history” I mean the generic term and not the literal (written) term.]

    Unfortunately, these courses usually have obscure titles and are often presented with a narrow audience in mind. This results in so many students and adults who decry the lack of access to their own histories; and entirely too much ignorance and false ideas of the great heritage we have in North America. [It leaves us suckers for the Barry Fell crew and the others who prefer a homogenized and disrespected heritage for their own selfish ends.]


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