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Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age…

Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America (2018)

by Craig Childs

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A fine balance of science and adventure, full of insight, humor and humanity. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 3, 2019 |
The author travels to various places to try and picture what life was like for the giant lifeforms that used to live during the Ice Age and how man traveled from northern Siberia to the Americas. ( )
  mamzel | Sep 19, 2018 |
I'm from the East Coast and it's difficult to find many places that invoke the feeling of 15,000 years ago, the forests are second growth and development is everywhere. But out west there are many places where one can easily collapse time and imagine little has changed other than being hotter and drier. The caves and stone dwellings still exist in a mostly intact landscape. This sense of time travel is what Craig Childs conveys as he tours archaeological sites around the Americas North, Central and South, but mainly focused on the United States west and Alaska.

The book has a ghostly poetic quality, we live among the bones of people and animals of a former world. It is deeply informative hardly a page goes by without some new interesting fact or perspective. Humans could have traveled from Alaska to Chile in as little as 2 years the speed of modern kayaks, easily living off the abundance of the "kelp highway" that reaches all the way to Japan. Humans have been in the Americas since at least 15,000 BC but likely longer with some evidence pushing it back to 30,000 BC - some of the oldest artifacts have been found on the US East Coast such as in the Chesapeake Bay.

Childs is of that generation that loves the primitive taking it to the level of spiritualism - he often speaks of ancient memories invoked by a place. Maybe he is right. or he might be a little insane too, in a good way. He ends with a trip to Black Rock desert home of Burning Man the ultimate neo-primitive collective. Only to find he wants to escape into the desert back in time, but not too far back when huge predators still walked about, rather to a sweet spot about 10,000 years ago when humans transitioned from eating Mammoths to deer and rabbits. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Jul 23, 2018 |
Take that, Columbus

Atlas of a Lost World is a tour with a difference. Its chapters are thousands of years long, but it all takes place in the present. Craig Childs has tried to follow the real first pilgrims as they migrated from Asia to the western continents. He says the so-called land bridge over the Bering Straits was not so much a bridge as a natural part of the land when the seas were much lower during the ice age. Far from a narrow, temporary bridge, it was 500 miles wide. Those making the journey likely had no idea they were crossing from continent to continent. It was the era of megafauna, and there was plenty to hunt – ten tons of animals per square mile, according models. He also says the hunters brought their dogs with them. Dogs did not descend from American wolves.

He walked in their paths and paddled his kayak along their likely routes. He suffered as they suffered in extreme cold and danger. For Childs it appears to be an obsession, and he knows every site, every expert examining them, and the history of all of them. People were here at least 15,000 years ago, and likely more than 25,000 years ago. And the more discoveries are made, the farther back that number gets pushed, to the denial and discomfort of many archeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists.

There are models that say it would have taken some 2200 days to trek from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego. And models that show you need about 160 people to make a tribe genetically diverse and viable. Which means a lot of people spread out over the land 15,000 years ago. The glaciers covering half the continent forced them into oases of green, or hugging the coast, for others.

The tools found all over the hemisphere have a definite resemblance. Where there are no tools, scientists evaluate the scrape marks on animal bones to prove butchers were among us from the beginning. Childs concludes they were Asian nomads, wanderers and adventurers. They did it simply because it was there. They had to explore and move camp continuously. And Childs himself is living proof of such a person. He has shown it was all feasible.

His writing is extremely descriptive. No details escape his notice, and everything reminds him of something else. Camping out in deserts, wilderness and glaciers has given him way too much time to think. After years of visiting sites all over the western hemisphere, he says he felt like a character in a children’s book going to every landmark and asking “Are you my mother”?

It is a mind-expanding journey.

David Wineberg ( )
2 vote DavidWineberg | Nov 27, 2017 |
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"From the author of Apocalyptic Planet, an unsparing, vivid, revelatory travelogue through prehistory that traces the arrival of the First People in North America twenty thousand years ago and the artifacts that enable us to imagine their lives and fates. Scientists squabble over the locations and dates for human arrival in the New World. The first explorers were few, encampments fleeting. At some point in time, between twenty and forty thousand years ago, sea levels were low enough that a vast land bridge was exposed between Asia and North America. But the land bridge was not the only way across. This book upends our notions of where these people came from and who they were. The unpeopled continent they reached was inhabited by megafauna--mastodons, sloths, mammoths, saber-toothed cats, lions, bison, and bears. The First People were not docile--Paleolithic spear points are still encrusted with the protein of their prey--but they were wildly outnumbered and many were prey to the much larger animals. This is a chronicle of the last millennia of the Ice Age, the gradual oscillations and retreat of glaciers, the clues and traces that document the first encounters of early humans, and the animals whose presence governed the humans' chances for survival"--… (more)

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