Friday, June 17, 2011

Archaeology book news

Guess what! An Archaeology of Desperation: Exploring the Donner Party's Alder Creek Camp is now available for pre-order at, Barnes&Noble, and, no doubt, other fine emporia. The publisher is the University of Oklahoma Press, the ISBN is 1806142103, and the release date is October 20, 2011.
Dr. Kelly Dixon is just checking the last set of galleys, and then that puppy's going to bed!

This isn't a trade book, so Amazon and B&N aren't offering any discounts off
the list price of $34.95. But it's worth it (IMO) for a hefty tome (~350 pages), with a lot of variety (10 chapters, 18 contributors), and a lot of new and exciting information. Here's the table of contents:

  • Sufferers in the mountains: the Donner Party disaster / Kristin Johnson
  • The aftermath of tragedy : the Donner camps in later years / Kristin Johnson
  • Historical perspectives on the archaeology of the Donner Party / Donald L. Hardesty
  • An archaeology of despair / Kelly J. Dixon
  • A family in crisis : archaeology of a survival camp / Julie M. Schablitsky
  • What remains : species identification and bone histology / Gwen Robbins and Kelsey Gray, with contributions by Guy L. Tasa, Ryne Danielson, and Matt Irish
  • Man and beast : skeletal signatures of a starvation diet / Shannon A. Novak
  • The delicate question : cannibalism in prehistoric and historic times / G. Richard Scott and Sean McMurry
  • Under watchful eyes : Washoe narratives of the Donner Party / Jo Ann Nevers and Penny Rucks, with contributions by Lana Hicks, Steven James, and Melba Rakow
  • "All remember the fate of the Donner Party" : history and the disaster at Cannibal Camp / Will Bagley and Kristin Johnson
  • Concluding thoughts / Kelly J. Dixon and Julie M. Schablitsky
Plus there are illustrations, maps, tables, etc.

A note on the cover: the illustration first appeared on the New Yorker of April 24, 2006, which contained Dana Goodyear's article, "What Happened at Alder Creek? Investigating the Donners."

Standard disclaimer: I have no financial interest in the book, alas. Although it will probably sell well (for a scholarly book), there are so many contributors that a division of the royalties would net each author a mere pittance, so the proceeds are being donated to an archaeological organization instead.


Vinogirl said...

Glad to see you are back.
It amazes me how you consistently come up with new Donner stuff.

Kristin Johnson said...

Hey, good to see you, too! I have six months of catching up to do, so will be posting a lot for a while. Thanks for writing.

Laurie said...

Just found your website as I'm knee-deep in researching and reading about Donner. Amazing - and thank you for all the effort. It's quite obvious you know your stuff, and it's very much appreciated by those of us who don't!!

Quick question, do you happen to know who might be THE authority on some other so-called "doomed" expeditions? I'm also interested in Terra Nova. All of this just makes me sad sometimes, because these people did everything they could just to survive - yet they're remembered by too many for just one thing, you know? Anyway. This is the kind of stuff I'm reading about (not sure if it's of interest, but might be)...

Thank you SO much, again, for this great blog (and I totally get the Real Life Syndrome - it sure happens doesn't it?).


Kristin Johnson said...

Hi, Laurie,

Thanks for your kind words about the website and the blog!

Doomed expeditions, eh? Hmm. Well, that kind of depends on how you define them, but here goes:

For overland trails disasters, I'd recommend Will Bagley on the Mountain Meadows Massacre and David Roberts on the Mormon handcart pioneers. Donald H. Shannon wrote about the Utter-Van Ornum tragedy, and LeRoy Hafen published primary documents about Fremont's Fourth Expedition. I don't who the reigning experts are on Death Valley or Meeks Cutoff, the sources I know about aren't very current, but both incidents certainly merit consideration as doomed expedition, especially Meeks.

Maritime disasters aren't my forte, but there are a lot to choose from. Nathaniel Philbrick's book on the whaleship Essex is superb. And the Bounty was certainly a doomed expedition -- there have been some recent books and reprints about it -- but Bligh's epic voyage in the Bounty's launch is the real survival tale.

I'm not up on Arctic/Antarctic misadventures; the only one I know a bit about is Sir John Franklin's, but I can't recommend any specific books.

I'm sure you're already familiar with many if not most of these, but hope this helps a little.

Thanks for writing!