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New World Origins Seen from the Old World


The last few years have seen a rapid advance in our knowledge of the early inhabitants of America, not of their bones, which are still elusive, but of the ways in which they lived and the things they made and used. The appearance of two important publications gives occasion for a brief review of the present state of the problem and how it appears from outside.

Dr Wormington’s book is a new edition of an old friend, which is, like its predecessors, indispensable to anyone who wants to keep up with the material. It gives concise factual accounts of a large number of finds ; it aims at inclusiveness rather than selection, and the material is becoming rather overwhelming in volume, but the evidence, or lack of it, for dating a site is always clearly set out and the reader has no difficulty in picking out those which are really significant. Wormington can now divide her material into Palaeoeastern and Palaeowestern Traditions, of which more will be said below, as well as a Palaeonorthern one which has not yet been proved to be so early in date. Professor Jennings’ monograph had not been published when her book appeared, but she had an idea of its significance from progress reports. It describes the excavation of three caves in western Utah, of which by far the most important is Danger Cave ; the evidence is fully but rather naïvely set out, and it would have gained by being more concisely expressed.

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1 (1) Ancient Man in North America, by H. M. Wormington. 4th Ed. 1957. Denver Museum of Natural History, Popular Series, no. 4. (a) Danger Cave, by Jesse D. Jennings. Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, no. 14. American Antiquity, vol. XXIII, no. 2, part a, October 1957.

2 See for example Michael, H. N., ‘The Neolithic Age in Eastern Siberia’, Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc, New-Series, vol. 48, part 2, 1958, figs. 33, 87. Since writing this article we have seen that Paul Tolstoy had already drawn attention to this point. See ‘The Archaeology of the Lena Basin and its New World Relationships, Part II’, in American Antiquity, XXIV, no. 1, July 1958, p. 65 and fig. 1.

3 We gather that current discoveries about to be published will extend this distribution appreciably further to the North-East.

4 See for instance Piveteau, Traité de Palaeontologie, vol. 7, Paris, 1957.

5 Vallois, Archives de l’Institut de paléontologie humaine, 29. Mémoire, Paris, 1958.

6 Garrod, D. A. E., Proc. Int. Congr. Prehist. and Protohist. Sci. Hamburg, 1958. (In press.)

7 Zotz, L. F., Das Palaeolithikum in den Weinberghõhlen bei Mauern. Bonn, 1955. McBurney, C. B. M., ‘The Geographical Study of the Older Palaeolithic Stages in Europe, P.P.S., 1950; Proc. Int. Congr. Prehist, and Protohist. Sci. Hamburg, 1958. (In press.)

8 Auerbach, M. K., The Palaeolithic Stage of Afontova Gora III. Irkutsk, 1930.

9 We understand that certain new finds about to be published may extend this distribution appreciably further East.

10 Abramov, A., Materait y Issledovania p.o. archeologia S.S.S.R., vol. 45, 1953.

11 Rogachev, A. N., Ibid., vol. 39, 1953.

12 Boule, M., and others, ‘Le paléolithique de la Chine’, Archives de l’Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, vol. 4, 1928.

13 Movius, H., ‘New Palaeolithic Sites near Tïng-Ts’un in the Fen River, Shansi Province, North China’, Quaternaria, vol. III, p. 13 fï., 1956.

14 Evidence summarized in Childe, V. G., izth Annual Report of the University of London Institute of Archaeology, p. 8, 1956.

15 We are indebted to Dr Wormington for making this point to us in conversation.

In this article Dr G. H. S. Bushnell, Curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in the University of Cambridge, and his colleague Dr Charles McBurney, Lecturer in Archaeology in the University, discuss the problems of New World Origins in special relation to Wormington's Ancient Man in North America, the excavations in the Danger Cave, and the theories put forward by Chester S. Chard in his article in the last number of ANTIQUITY, 1959, 55.

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