Archaeology on the Great Plains

Edited by W. Raymond Wood

Stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to central Canada, North America's great interior grasslands were home to nomadic hunters and semisedentary farmers for almost 11,500 years before the arrival of Euro-American settlers. Pan-continental trade between these hunters and horticulturists helped make the lifeways of Plains Indians among the richest and most colorful of Native Americans.

This volume is the first attempt to synthesize current knowledge on the cultural history of the Great Plains since Wedel's Prehistoric Man on the Great Plains became the standard reference on the subject almost forty years ago. Fourteen authors have undertaken the task of examining archaeological phenomena through time and by region to present a systematic overview of the region's human history. Focusing on habitat and cultural diversity and on the changing archaeological record, they reconstruct how people responded to the varying environment, climate, and biota of the grasslands to acquire the resources they needed to survive.

“This book covers more than 12,000 years of Native American and Euro-American occupation of the Great Plains. The contributors are recognized experts, including several with international reputations. With its excellent summaries, discussions of important archaeological sites, and extensive bibliography, it can be used in any university course dealing with the archaeology of the Great Plains or by general readers with a passionate interest in the Great Plains and its native cultural traditions.”


“A seminal work on Great Plains archaeology. This work examines the rich diversity of cultures and lifestyles that have existed in the region that extends from the Gulf of Mexico into central Canada. Excellent photographs and maps. Highly recommended.”

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The contributors have analyzed archaeological artifacts and other evidence to present a systematic overview of human history in each of the five key Plains regions: Southern, Central, Middle Missouri, Northeastern, and Northwestern. They review the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, and Plains Village peoples and tell how their cultural traditions have continued from ancient to modern times. Each essay covers technology, diet, settlement, and adaptive patterns to give readers an understanding of the differences and similarities among groups. The story of Plains peoples is brought into historical focus by showing the impacts of Euro-American contact, notably acquisition of the horse and exposure to new diseases.

Featuring 85 maps and illustrations, Archaeology on the Great Plains is an exceptional introduction to the field for students and an indispensable reference for specialists. It enhances our understanding of how the Plains shaped the adaptive strategies of peoples through time and fosters a greater appreciation for their cultures.

About the Author

W. Raymond Wood is professor of anthropology and research professor at the University of Missouri. His books include An Interpretation of Mandan Prehistory and numerous other studies of Great Plains prehistory.