Travel to Ice Age America, meet author
“Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America”
by Craig Childs
When the sea levels rise, what will become of precarious Manhattan, perched on its island? Will Long Island Sound someday become Long Island Bay, leaving its anthropological identity erased by tidal sands and acid brine? Will microchips and half-used gift cards be gathered and studied like so many arrowheads and carved mammoth ribs?
Rising sea levels and climatic changes are not just 21st century phenomena. About 10,000 years ago, melting ice sheets prompted migrations inland to new coasts. So many clues to our ancient past were lost under rising seas after the last ice age that we may never find the earliest evidence of human arrival in the Americas.
Craig Childs chronicles this epoch in “Atlas of a Lost World,” about determined humans and a changing planet and many species fading into tar pits while another carves a new era out of slate and stone. From the wide banks of the Yukon River to the shrapnel-scarred edges of White Sands, Childs’s “Atlas of a Lost World” takes the reader on a Pleistocene journey to answer this question: How and when did humans arrive in the Americas?
These are chapters of high adventure from the northern tundra of the Bering Strait to the mountain passes of our own colorful Colorado. Travel with these ancient people; see a painting in ochre and ice of families and hermits striking out into a New World. Follow them, hot on the trail of giant proboscideans and stalking cave bears. Smell the wind cascading off glaciers, and feel the warmth of small, precious fires in a world packed with mammalian muscle, teeth and hooves. These people are just like us — wielding Clovis points instead of cruise missiles. They are parents and children, artists and warriors. People seeking something.
“Atlas of a Lost World“ is also a thrilling mystery, one where we are shown the fragments of our ancient selves in vast museum specimen drawers, where Childs compels us to explore heaps of giant bison bones hidden in our well-hiked Alpine valleys. Our guide reassures us that — while there are many unknown forks on the trail and dark gaps in our knowledge, containing Dire Wolves, no doubt — we are well equipped for the adventure. We can confidently tread the path to better understand where it began — and where it may lead.
And if that path leads us, eventually, back to the ocean, let us hope our time is better recorded.
Author Craig Childs will discuss his new book and sign copies on Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m. at the Bud Werner Memorial Library. Book sales courtesy of Off the Beaten Path bookstore.
This title is available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path.
John Major is a reference librarian at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
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