Bones, Dewar, Elaine

Bones

Authors: Dewar, Elaine

Publisher: Random House of Canada

ISBN: 9780307375551

Classification: Fiction

Synopsis: Scientists not so long ago unanimously believed that people first walked to the New World from northeast Asia across the Bering land bridge at the end of the Ice Age 11,000 years ago. But in the last ten years, new tools applied to old bones have yielded evidence that tells an entirely different story.

In Bones, Elaine Dewar records the ferocious struggle in the scientific world to reshape our views of prehistory. She traveled from the Mackenzie River valley in northern Canada to the arid plains of the Brazilian state of Piaui, from the skull-and-bones-lines offices of the Smithsonian Institution to the basement lab of an archaeologist in Washington State who wondered if the FBI was going to come for him. She met scientists at war with each other and sought to see for herself the oldest human remains on these continents. Along the way, she found that the old answer to the question of who were the First Americans was steeped in the bitter tea of racism.

Bones explores the ambiguous terrain left behind when a scientific paradigm is swept away. It tells the stories of the archaeologists, Native American activists, DNA experts and physical anthropologists scrambling for control of ancient bones of Kennewick Man, Spirit Cave, and the oldest one of all, a woman named Luzia. At stake are professional reputations, lucrative grants, fame, vindication, even the reburial of wandering spirits. The weapons? Lawsuits, threats, violence. The battlefield stretches from Chile to Alaska.

Dewar tells the stories that never find their way into scientific papers — stories of mysterious deaths, of the bones of evil shamen and the shadows falling on the lives of scientists who pulled them from the ground. And she asks the new questions arising out of the science of bones and the stories of first peoples: "What if Native Americans are right in their belief that they have always been in the Americas and did not migrate to the New World at the end of the Ice Age? What if the New World's human story is as long and complicated as that of the Old? What if the New World and the Old World have always been one?"

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