American Antiquities


American Antiquities

Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology

Terry A. Barnhart

Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology Series

594 pages
28 illustrations


November 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

November 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

November 2015


$75.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Writing the history of American archaeology, especially concerning eighteenth- and nineteenth-century arguments, is not always as straightforward as it might seem. Archaeology’s trajectory from an avocation to a semi-profession to a specialized profession, rather than being a linear progression, was an untidy organic process that emerged from the intellectual tradition of antiquarianism. It then closely allied itself with the natural sciences throughout the nineteenth century, especially with geology and the debate about the origins and identity of the indigenous mound-building cultures of the eastern United States.
In his reexamination of the eclectic interests and equally varied settings of nascent American archaeology, Terry A. Barnhart exposes several fundamental, deeply embedded historiographical problems within the secondary literature relating to the nineteenth-century debate about “Mound Builders” and “American Indians.” Some issues are perceptual, others contextual, and still others are basic errors of fact. Adding to the problem are semantic and contextual considerations arising from the problematic use of the term “race” as a synonym for tribe, nation, and race proper—a concept and construct that does not in all instances translate into current understanding and usage. American Antiquities uses this early discourse on the mounds to reframe perennial anthropological problems relating to human origins and antiquity in North America.

Author Bio

Terry A. Barnhart is a professor of history at Eastern Illinois University. He is the author of Ephraim George Squier and the Development of American Anthropology (Nebraska, 2005).




"American Antiquities is an excellent volume that accomplishes a great deal. It deserves high praise and to be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the roots of the Archaeology profession as it developed in a particular social context."—Robert A. Cook, Journal of Anthropological Research

"[A] superb historiography."—Timothy R. Pauketat, Antiquities

"Anyone interested in the diverse motivations for the massive and widespread19th-Century archaeological excavations at American mortuary sites of later prehistoric times would be well served to read Terry Barnhart's American Antiquities."—Kenneth B. Farnsworth, Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology

“Americans are reminded constantly of our diverse modern society. In his important and interesting book, Barnhart shows readers that diverse aboriginal cultures occupied the American continent for thousands of years. American Antiquities contains detailed, substantial, and well-referenced information on the early historic encounter with ancient America and its implications.”—Francis P. McManamon, general editor of Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia

“Terry Barnhart is notably the world’s foremost expert on E. G. Squier. This work broadens the discussion [of mound building] by picking up earlier influences on nineteenth-century speculations about the Ohio Valley mounds, as well as delving into more of the impact of Squier on his contemporaries. Barnhart has pulled together a number of contributors to the history of mound builders that are not in other histories of the field. This volume provides a rich new perspective on this component of American antiquarianism.”—David L. Browman, author of Cultural Negotiations: The Role of Women in the Founding of Americanist Archaeology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Series Editors’ Introduction
Prologue: Historicizing the Origins of American Archaeology
1. American Antiquities: A Grand Theme for Speculation
2. Rediscovering the Mounds: Scientific Enquiry and the Westward Movement
3. Antiquaries, Ideas, and Institutions: More Testimony from the Mounds
4. A Dialectical Discourse: Constructing the Mound Builder Paradigm
5. American Archaeology: An Infant Science Emerges
6. Origin, Era, and Region: An Expanding Field of Archaeological Enquiry
7. Archaeology as Anthropology: The Coming of the Curators and Professors

Also of Interest