Here is unfolded to the mind and imagination of the reader an impressive panorama of life on the American continents before ever Columbus opened the way for European exploration and conquest.
Beginning with an exciting account of the ice-age animals—"horses and camels and dogs and many other animal families that were really and truly American"—the story sweeps in dramatic episodes from the cold and lonely journey of Asiatic peoples across the Bering Strait, to the highly organized civilization of the Incas.
"It is a story of epic size, of ordinary human beings faced with the challenge of the unknown and the dangerous, and of the courage and endurance with which these men, women, and children traveled across the icy top of the world. . .[and] found their way down from the cold northland into the endless Great Plains from which they spread in countless ways. Some of the groups settles here and there along the way. Others pushed on across high mountains and through danger-infested jungles until, perhaps many centuries after the first arrival in America, people had reached the southern tip of the continent, the cold land strangely named Tierra del Fuego, or 'Land of Fire.'"
A profusion of scrupulously authenticated drawings by C. B. Falls and photographs assembled from museums and anthropological collections strengthen and illuminate the author's detailed and lively descriptions of the customs and costumes, the arts, crafts, and architecture characteristic of the various cultural patterns that developed in various parts of the Americas. Vividly told imaginative stories are interspersed among the direct factual accounts of life among the Eskimos, the Hunters and Fishermen of the northwest, the Food Gatherers and Basketmakers of the southwest, the Mound Builders of the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, the Indians of the eastern forests, the Vikings who "found and lost America," the Aztecs and Mayas of the Central American areas, and the Incas of the Andean region.
An arresting feature of the book is its consistent emphasis on the immense knowledge, skill, and resourcefulness which anthropologists have brought to the "patient toil" of piecing together the pre-Columbian history of the Americas. This adds greatly to the fascinating interest of the book, and combines with the romance and excitement of the story to invite the reader to extend his exploration of this thrilling segment of history beyond the bounds of any one book.
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