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The Great Paleolithic WarHow Science Forged an Understanding of America's Ice Age Past$
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David J. Meltzer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226293226

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226293363.001.0001

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Cro-Magnons in Kansas, Neanderthals in Nebraska, 1899–1914

Cro-Magnons in Kansas, Neanderthals in Nebraska, 1899–1914

(p.192) Chapter Six Cro-Magnons in Kansas, Neanderthals in Nebraska, 1899–1914
The Great Paleolithic War

David J. Meltzer

University of Chicago Press

At the turn of the century the human antiquity controversy took a sharp turn; attention shifted to sites producing ancient-looking human skeletal remains in what appeared to be Pleistocene-aged loess at Lansing, Kansas, and Long's Hill, Nebraska. The shift from paleoliths to skeletal remains, and from sites in gravels to ones in loess triggered a new round of debate at once familiar and not. There were the usual questions about whether the remains were in primary context and how old the deposits were. Confounding matters. archaeological claims once more became entangled in geological disputes, this time over whether loess originated in wind or glacial meltwater, its age(s), and its relation to glacial history. On the archaeological side discussion veered into the unfamiliar terrain of what a Pleistocene age human skeleton ought to look like, a difficult question to answer given the meager fossil record then known, and uncertainty over the rate of anatomical change over time, and how long ago modern humans appeared. Aleš Hrdlička, a young medical doctor introduced to the controversy by Putnam, but soon hired by Holmes, became a central figure in the dispute. He visited, evaluated and criticized virtually every newly-discovered site with purportedly ancient skeletal remains.

Keywords:   Lansing site, Long's Hill site, loess, human evolution, anatomical change, Aleš Hrdlička

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