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Atlas of a Lost World

Narrated by: Craig Childs
Length: 9 hrs and 10 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

From the author of Apocalyptic Planet, an unsparing, vivid, revelatory travelogue through prehistory that traces the arrival of the First People in North America 20,000 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 20,000 and 40,000 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.

©2018 Craig Childs (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 13-09-18

Lyrical musings on a lost world

This is not a scientific text. Not even close. What this is, is a lyrical travelogue through ice age sites in America. Childs doesn't show us The Story of prehistoric man on this continent, but rather A Story, filled with possibilities, even probabilities, based on evidence of tool-making, camp sites, kill sites, and his own vivid imaginings of what his experiences in these places might have been like ten or fifteen thousand years ago.

Moving back and forth from his own travels to his recreation of ice age life in the same spots, Childs captures a deep sense of what early man must have endured to be here, and what he must have found to keep him here. Childs tracks the megafauna like mammoths and mastodons, the evolution of knapped stone tools, migration patterns. He thinks deeply about the meaning behind what he finds, and creates what feels like a dialogue with the earth, and the spirits of those who who first walked here.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the discussion of first humans. The dates for the first human habitation of the Americas keep getting moved back in time as research -- often vigorously denied and equally vigorously defended -- unearths earlier and earlier human made objects. While Childs seems to believe the evidence for far earlier habitation, he is careful to present different points of view.  He even mentions the "Solutrean hypothesis" which posits that the earliest human migration to the Americas came from Europe about 21,000 years ago, not Asia. He's quick to point out that the hypothesis is most popular with white nationalists who choose to believe that the origins of the Americas were European not Asia. He is also is quick to point out that even if it was true, something genetic research has cast serious doubt on, Solutrean man would have been very far from modern Europeans and much more like Cheddar Man. 

Childs asks a great many questions, and presents a great many possible answers, but what he gives us is a highly personal view of ice age life, filtered through his 21st century life and experience. He hasn't written a scientific treatise, he's written a love letter to a time and place long gone, but deeply important, and very much to be cherished as what makes the Americas what they are today.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Mike Kircher
  • 29-10-18

Fantasy of a Lost World

The first part of this book is engaging as the author recounts his explorations of the Bering Land Bridge and how humans may have crossed it 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. But as the book continues and the author continues his explorations down the west coast of the Americas and then through the mainland US, you begin to realize that he doesn't base his narratives on the strength of the archeological evidence but that of his fantasies of swashbuckling ancient explorers with shreds of evidence to buttress his description of the life of the early inhabitants of this continent. And while enjoyable at first, this fantasy narration becomes tedious.
I am in the 12th of the 13 chapters of the book where the author and several companions are hiking across a desert expanse to visit the annual Burning Man gathering and I am not sure I will finish the book. While I always enjoy reading and about and viewing pictures of the Burning Man celebrations, the author's feeble attempts to tie Burning Man to the lives of the first peoples of this continent seem like an insult to Archeology and to those people. There are better accounts of this history, such as those by Charles Mann, and they are far more interesting and informative.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Miss Lizzy 2000
  • 26-08-18

Great Writer

I haven't studied the subject of migrations to the Americas before, and had no idea that people came here so long ago. Childs speaks very poetically about their trials and movements and adaptations in moving from place to place. I found this whole recording captured my imagination and led me to understand the human search for new places and our ability to adapt.
Very educational work.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kurt Schwoppe
  • 25-08-18

Immersive, Enjoyable, and Educational

Craig Childs' passionate narration of the peopling of the Americas transports the reader back into time when humans first appeared in near-Eden at the dawn of the Holocene. Atlas of a Lost World rates up there with Guns, Germs, and Steel. It is filled with facts and information, but told in a way that appeals to the layman versus the egotistical PhD. The author clearly takes on the Clovis-First zealots by weaving together multiple examples of pre-Clovis discoveries into a complex migration story that is both factual and fascinating. What makes this book so excellent is that the author interjects his own wilderness experiences to portray what Paleo-Indians may have experienced as they faced endless ice sheets, extreme weather, and the rich diversity of ice-age fauna. He tells the story of waking up on top of a glacier listening to song birds high up on the ice, and then wondering if the annual southern migration of birds nesting in the arctic may have motivated the Paleo-Indians to cross the glaciers long before the ice-free corridor opened? This is but one of many examples where Childs thinks outside the box to explain what the migration facts are saying. And while some of his ideas are clearly subjective, he never claims them as facts, and at least he IS thinking!!! I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the origins of humans in the Americas; but don’t bother if you have a closed and boring mind.

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  • Readinguy
  • 21-12-18

He doesn't write as well as he seems to think

The author attempts to be lyrical, but he drowns in his own adjectives. I was looking for some actual information, but I heard about the sandwich his mother made for him.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Josh NJ
  • 26-07-18

Blaaaa

Boring. No facts. All feelings. A must not read if you want info on this subject.

235 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 23-08-18

could not get into this

I listened to the first two hours. The author chronicled his arctic expedition, making connections to the experiences of the early humans in the past. Both had interesting details, but neither captured my interest enough to stay with this book. I actually wanted to know more about the early humans. I can see why others liked this so much, but I didn't.

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  • Amy
  • 07-09-18

Too fast

The recording is a little too fast, not so fast that you could listen at 75%, but too fast to enjoy

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  • Sharon Garner
  • 25-03-20

Too much author

I really enjoyed the scientific part of this book and even occasionally thought that the connections to his own experience added. Most of the time though I just wanted to move past the current ramblings and get back to the past.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-02-20

enlightening

learned so much. encore! keep writing and taking us with you on all these adventures