Terry A. Barnhart examines how American archaeology developed within an eclectic set of interests and equally varied settings. He argues that fundamental problems are deeply embedded in secondary literature relating to the nineteenth-century debate about "Mound Builders" and "American Indians." Some issues are perceptual, others contextual, and still others basic errors of fact. Adding to the problem are semantic and contextual considerations arising from the accommodating, indiscriminate, and 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 understandings and usages. American Antiquities uses this early discourse on the mounds to frame perennial anthropological problems relating to human origins and antiquity in North America.
Providing a deeper and more nuanced temporal perspective of common buildings in the Americas, the editors have deftly framed a study that highlights sociocultural diversity while at the same time facilitating broader comparative conversations around the theme of vernacular architecture. With diverse case studies covering a broad range of periods and regions, Vernacular Architecture in the Pre-Columbian Americas is an important addition to the growing body of scholarship on the indigenous architecture of the Americas and is a key contribution to our archaeological understandings of past built environments.