The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 116

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Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Polk has examined every aspect of the historical myth that California was an is-
land, and this study clearly fits into the general rubric of European intellectual
history: the ways in which Europeans constructed geographic knowledge, and
how myth, fable, and faith drawn from the Bible were as real in the minds of early
explorers as the lands they encountered. This is a well-written book that is a sig-
nificant contribution to the growing literature on the European conceptualiza-
tion and creation of America. To her credit, Polk refrains from the use of
postmodernist jargon. Specialists and general readers interested in California
history should add this book to their reading list, but it should not be over-
looked by scholars in other fields.
Texas Southern University ROBERT H. JACKSON
Great Excavations. By Melinda Elliott. (Seattle: School of American Research
Press, 1995. Pp. 270. Photographs, map, notes, bibliography. ISBN o-
933452-42-X, cloth. -43-8, paper. $40.00, cloth. $20.00, paper.)
Modern archeologists are notorious for the tediousness of their reports on
their field work. In addition, concerning writing about the prehistory of the
Southwest, the general public has been given precious few attempts at clarity
and synthesis. With this "popular history" (p. xv), Melinda Elliott has produced a
breakthrough work.
Elliott, a gifted journalist, attempts to convey "a sense of the romance and ex-
citement" (p. xi) of the archeology of the American Southwest. This is a deceiv-
ingly lofty goal and one which has seemed, until now, peculiarly elusive. Ann
Axtell Morris's Digging in the Southwest (1933) was a pleasant, although limited,
start in this direction. Professional archeologists generally have not been in-
clined to attempt it and it may be just as well that they have not.
Elliott brings to the enormous body of literature on southwestern archeology
a refreshing and orderly presentation of investigations whose interrelationships
she certainly understands. She devotes separate chapters to discrete geographic
areas of major excavation and weaves appropriate details of the lives of the prin-
cipal investigators into her stories. An account of the generations of investigators
who labored at Mesa Verde is followed by a chapter on A. V. Kidder's work at
Pecos Pueblo. On the heels of a review of Earl Morris's work at Aztec Ruin is a
chapter concerning F. W. Hodge's efforts at Hawikuh. To these Elliott adds ac-
counts of Neil Judd's accomplishments at Pueblo Bonito, Emil Haury's work at
Snaketown, J. O. Brew's excavation at Awatovi, and the Rainbow Bridge-Monu-
ment Valley Expedition. Each chapter is a narrative gem.
A strength of the work lies in the author's wisdom to seek, through interviews,
insights from some of the best-known archeologists of our time. Another is its
numerous precious and spectacular black-and-white photographs. This book is
meticulously researched and the tales are told with a deftness that belies the
thoroughness of Elliott's scholarship.

116

July

Towson State University

VICTOR B. FISHER

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/144/ocr/: accessed September 25, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.