Imagining Boston

My online writing project has moved to Imagining Boston, where I share my plotting and working notes for a historical novel set in Boston.
Boston, a Novel is a saga of four families whose stories bring vibrantly to life the passion and pageant of the city that gave birth to America.
       A cast of fictional characters share the stage with the real-life heroes and rascals of Boston, from Puritan saints with a vision of a “City on a Hill” to liberty’s sons raining fire on the English below Dorchester Heights, from globe-girdling China traders to Irish ward bosses conquering the Athens of America street by street.
      This is Boston seen at ground level, a rattling tale on cobblestone streets and bustling wharves, the lore of captains and castaways, merchant princes and servants, zealots and dissenters. Their adventures sweep from the wild fens of Lincolnshire to the streets of seventeenth-century London, from the blighted hills of County Cork to battlefields of the American Civil War, from Cape Horn to savage Nootka Sound and Whampoa on the Canton River, and in World War II across the violent Atlantic to Murmansk, Russia.
       Boston, a Novel is an intensely human story chronicling the triumphs and tragedies of generations who make Shawmut peninsula their home. Massachusett Indians combating terrifying Abnaki raiders at the site of the future Scollay Square; Quakers executed on Boston Common’s hanging tree; Puritans revelling in the rat pits and brothels of Mount Whoredom. Cudgel boys beating Redcoats black and blue; Irish mothers scrambling for a foothold on Jacob’s Ladder; Broadcloth mobs storming Tremont Temple to smash Abolitionists; African-Americans marching down Beacon Street going to fight and die for freedom.
       Brahmin autocrats buttressing the ramparts of State Street; Catholic bullies chasing down Jews on Blue Hill Avenue; yellow buses driving black and white students across a divided city; workers from thirty nations coming together for the Big Dig . . . A monumental cast, real and fictional, shaping the destiny of old and new Boston, itself like a living entity ever changing and re-defining its limits.

Imagining Boston -  Part 1 - Quenop's Vision

Plotting A Novel of America – Part 1 [Notes]

“Gone Fishing,” I'd like to say, limiting my posts for a fortnight, but in reality it's “Gone Plotting!”

Subscribers who've followed me since January (Thanks to all!) have seen that I'm reading my way through the millennia sharing notes and ideas for my American novel.

I've wandered from the Beringia Ice Wall of 30,000 years ago to the Clovis sites of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. I have visited with the Ancient One of the Columbia river, and marveled at Great Cahokia at its zenith in 1150 A.D. I followed the great entradas of the Spaniards and their successors' small but valiant and woefully unrecognized plantings in Florida and the South-West.

I've added my musings to the age-old puzzle of Roanoke Island and its lost colony. I gained new admiration for Captain John Smith and his true observations of seventeenth-century America. And last but not least in the age of the Pilgrims, I found Mine Host Thomas Morton beckoning me to look beyond the myths and see the “big picture.”

An immense tapestry, of course, from the long, long ago through the four centuries since John Smith and Thomas Morton walked our shores.
I've decided to tackle the plotting and writing of A Novel of America in four stages: The first will begin with the story of Cahokia, I will then cover the Spaniards, and finally the early English ventures, from Roanoke to Plymouth and Merry Mount.

My online writing experiment is just that, my work plan evolving as I go along. Part of my effort is to see whether an independent writer can successfully work under the virtual gaze of a world wide web – to leave the attic and still retain the solitary mystique that keeps the creative flame burning.

How James A. Michener and I Plotted The Covenant [Notes]

As I begin work on plotting A Novel of America, I thought I would share a glimpse of what's involved from my sessions with James. A. Michener during our collaboration on The Covenant. These items come from my website archives, where the reader can view larger images.

Michener and I brainstormed core ideas for the South African book at his kitchen table in St. Michael's, Maryland. Our starting point involved i) Deciding which key events of South Africa's history we needed to cover ii) Drawing a historical time-line with rough trajectory for the 'movement' of the novel iii) Introducing the forbears of three fictional families – Van Doorns, Nxumalos, Saltwoods – and placing them and their descendants in the historical context, interweaving the imagined with the real.

These pages are from my original scribbling block with penciled notes made as Jim and I sat talking. The names, dates, lines, squiggles, scratches and scrawls were subsequently transferred to a second and tidier pencil draft, then a third "yellow page" draft, and a fourth revision of this. Each stage involved searching discussions on characters, actions and relevance to “the big picture.”

Easily twelve and closer to fifteen hours a day, sweeping back and forth across the centuries, chasing down ghosts of the past to bring back to life in the pages of the novel.

When the time came for Michener to write the first draft, some of my ideas would be scrapped but most found their way into The Covenant alongside Jim's own story-telling, as one might expect in any intimate collaboration between two writers.

Finally, there emerged as comprehensive an Outline as one needed to begin work. Many writers prefer to forge ahead without an outline, and for most this works well; with an epic spanning centuries and with a vast array of characters, a detailed plan is essential. This is not cast in stone but is constantly updated as the manuscript grows and the characters take their own twists and turns through the imagination.

My novel, Brazil, had a similar genesis, with a lengthy plotting session before I set out on my research trip and then returned to sit down and write the book. Like The Covenant, the broad strokes of the Brazil held true from first planning to the end.

A Walk in the Tranquil Woods of Plymouth with Mr. Longfellow, with Bluebirds and Robins singing in Hanging Gardens (Notes)

In 1858, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote The Courtship of Myles Standish, his epic poem of the Old Colony and its first settlers. It tells the story of John Alden, a lovelorn cooper; Priscilla Mullins, seventeen when she sailed in the Mayflower, a maiden modest and simple and sweet; and Myles Standish of Plymouth, a “maker of war not of phrases.”

Longfellow's Standish is a far cry from Thomas Morton's “Captain Shrimpe.” He is a stalwart with glittering weapons of warfare, cutlass and corselet of steel, and trusty sword of Damascus with mystical Arabic inscription. Not for naught is the captain introduced with the Commentaries of Caesar at hand and his gaze upon the howitzers atop the “roof" of the church, not there to shoot red squirrel but “red devils.” – “Truly the only tongue that is understood by a savage must be the tongue of fire that speaks from the mouth of a cannon.”

The epic includes the historical confrontation between Standish and the Massaschusett's sachems, Peksuot and Wituwamet in 1622, depicted as the first battle fought and won by Standish, the two Indians in reality lured into a trap and murdered. Wituwamet's head was carried back to Plymouth, a trophy that “scowled from the roof of the fort.”

Standish, a widower, seeks the hand of sweet Priscilla but “knows not the pleadings and wooings of lovers.” He asks fair-headed taciturn Alden to deliver his proposal to Priscilla, a burden that strikes John to the core for he's also smitten by the “Mayflower of Plymouth,” a reference to fragrant Trailing Arbutus blooms the messenger gathers in the Plymouth woods en route to fulfill his woeful errand.

Priscilla is pictured at her spinning wheel, singing the hundredth Psalm as she works, the grand old anthem of consolation and comfort: “Make a joyful voice unto the Lord...”
She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest,
Making the humble house and the modest apparel of homespun
Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of her being!
For the real Priscilla Mullins, there was a world of pain, too, her parents and sibling all perishing in the first terrible winter of 1620-1621 leaving her alone in a “land of sand and sickness and sorrow.”

Priscilla rejects Standish's telegraphed troth: “If I am not worth the wooing, I am not worth the winning.” She spurns the captain as “a little chimney, and heated hot in a moment.” And to young Alden, she utters her immortal challenge: “Why don't you speak for yourself, John?”

All ends well, when Longfellow unites the young couple in the Puritan way, fervently and devoutly. Miles Standish, mourned as dead from a poisoned arrow, returns to give the couple his blessing. John Alden and Priscilla leave for his Duxbury home, the bride riding on a snow-white bull covered with a crimson cloth -- curiously similar to the legendary exodus of Reverend William Blackstone, first settler of Shawmut, who left England "on account of the bishops and Boston on account of the brethren.”

When The Courtship of Myles Standish was published in London in 1858, it sold 10,000 copies on its first day off the presses. In the Athens of America, the beloved poet's words underscored an epic myth in the making since the last decade of the 18th century with the Pilgrims sifted as wheat “for the living seed of the nation” and Plymouth Rock, “doorstop into a world unknown. – the cornerstone of a nation.”

I cannot read Longfellow and other Brahmins and baccalaureates who shared in the myth-building without wondering whether they did John and Priscilla and Captain Standish a disservice by inventing a fable that stripped the founders of America of flesh and blood. Not only the saints and strangers of Plymouth but thousands who landed on these shores for better or worse.

Reverend Peter Gomes, pastor of Harvard's Memorial Church and devoted scholar of the Old Colony is quoted in The Times of Their Lives, the splendid work on Plymouth by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz: “Had Longfellow devoted himself to the Romance languages, of which he was Smith Professor at Harvard, rather than to mediocre but memorable verse, the perception of American history may have been quite different. Paul Revere would have remained an unknown Boston artisan, and the Pilgrims of Plymouth would be little more than aggregate virtue.”

Add to this the vision of historian Samuel Eliot Morison, who looked far beyond the rock of ages: “American democracy was not born in the cabin of the Mayflower, or in the Boston town meeting, but on the farming, fighting frontier of all the colonies, New England included.”

[Images: "Priscilla, The Courtship of Miles Standish, 1885," a painting by Laslett John Pott,
1st Art Gallery prints; "Myles Standish Marching to Quell Indian Rebellion," artist unsourced, courtesy Son of the South; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, courtesy Library of Congress, see also Longfellow Historic Site ]

How the Puritans cast Mine Host of Merrymount into Captivity for Three Hundred Years [Notes]

Thomas Morton's restoration to Nature's Masterpiece was short-lived, for there arrived in New England, a foe more formidable by far than the Pilgrim Fathers: Governor John Winthrop leading the Great Migration of Puritans whose first vessels made landfall at Cape Ann in June 1630, finding “a store of fine strawberries growing wild in the Promised land.”

There would be no quarter for cavalier Morton in the “city upon a hill,” with an elect community charged to be the “Modell of Christian Charity.” At the very court that gave Boston its name, Morton was hauled before Winthrop and his magistrates on charges of stealing a canoe from the Indians “and other misdemeanors.” His house at Merrymount was condemned to be burned, its owner deprived of his goods and shackled until he could be transported back to England.

Banished by a government “as good to live under as Turkie,” Morton sharpened his quill to prick the “sect of cruell Schismaticks.” A self-styled satirist with smarting fangs, Mine Host lampooned Great Joshua Temperwell (Winthrop), Captain Littleworth ( John Endicott,) Master Bubble (Unnamed minister to the heathen,) and his arch-enemy, Captain Shrimp (Miles Standish.)

Morton's New (English) Canaan (1637) comprises three books: Book One describes the “manners and customs of the natives, together with their tractable nature and love toward the English;” Book Two covers the “natural endowments of the country, and its commodities;” Book Three takes aim at the Separatists and “what remarkable accidents have happened since the first planting.”

“The truest description of New England as then it was that ever I saw,” said Morton's friend, Samuel Maverick, resident in Massachusetts Bay since 1623, an “old planter” as colorful as Mine Host, occupying a site in today's East Boston with three African servants (slaves?), one a “Queene of her Owne Countrey.”

Maverick's praise for New Canaan became a long lost lone voice. Other critics almost unanimously reviled Thomas Morton and his work, a drubbing that resounded over the centuries to the belle epoque of Brahmin letters.

Nineteenth-century historian Charles Francis Adams dismissed Mine Host saying “... absolutely nothing to be said in his favor...a born Bohemian and reckless libertine, without either morals or religion...a disreputable London lawyer, fonder of the tavern than of chambers...much more himself when ranging the fields with a hawk or hound than when rummaging law books...This man by some odd freak of destiny was flung up as a waif on the shores of Boston Bay.”

Adams grudgingly conceded that “Morton's strange, incoherent, rambling book contains one of the best descriptions of Indian life, traits and habits, and of the trees, products and animal life of New England, which has come down to us.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne's story The Maypole of Merry Mount saw “jollity and doom contending for an empire” with the Puritans comparing the revelers to “those devils and ruined souls with whom their superstition peopled the black wilderness.” Woe to the youth or maiden who did but dream of a dance! wrote Hawthorne. Dance, they might, around the whipping post -- the Puritan Maypole.

In contrast to Hawthorne's frolic, Longfellow pounded “...roystering Morton of Merry Mount/That pettifogger from Furnival's Inn (=Clifford's Inn)/Lord of misrule and riot and sin,/Who looked on the wine when it was red."

Three centuries of infamy followed Mine Host until historians like Samuel Eliot Morison began to steer a fairer course: “... a gay gentleman with an eye for trade, author of the most entertaining book on early Massachusetts...We are heavily in debt to Morton for the jolliest contemporary account of early New England. If he did not love our people, he at least loved our land.” (Builders of the Bay Colony, 1930)

Modern Morton scholar, Jack Dempsey, devoted ten years to the life of this Renaissance man : “Bring Morton and Canaan back for the new century, and few books will provide better 'whirlwinds' to clear many clouds away...and help to repair some of the foundational lies and willful ethnocentrisms long-presented as fact in the religious, historical, literary, 'entertainment,' and scientific demonizations of Native people, that worked, and often still work to continue colonialism.”

[Images: Governor Bartholomew Gosnold trades with the Powhatan engraving by Theodor de Bry, courtesy Discovering Jamestown; John Winthrop, courtesy American Antiquarian Society; Pilgrims Going to Church, courtesy Library of Congress, Rare Books Division: America Before Columbus, 1893; The Pequot War, courtesy Library of Congress.]

Thomas Morton: Mine Host of Merrymount and the Old Ways of Doing Business [Notes]

"The more I looked, the more I liked it. And when I had more seriously considered of the beauty of the place, with all her fair endowments, I did not think that in all the known world it could be paralleled -- In mine eyes, 'twas Nature's masterpiece.”
-- New Canaan,
Thomas Morton, 1637

Had the Devil blighted New England's shores in June 1624, Satan would've been no less welcome to the Pilgrims of Plymouth than Thomas Morton, a lawyer, a poet, a sportsman and an adventurer. And in short order, a sharp thorn in the side of the saints and sore temptation to the strangers among them.

Thomas Morton was forty-eight when he came to America, leaving a family “snatching and snarling and brawling at every meal,” and escaping a rancorous quarrel with his eighteen-year-old stepson. He landed at Massachusetts Bay in the company of Captain Richard Wollaston, their plantation located in present-day Quincy and originally called “Mount Wollaston.”

When Wollaston and his second-in-command left for Virginia with thirty of forty indentured servants, esquire Morton stayed put with seven remaining “knights,” and an unknown number of traders, fishermen, sailors, trappers and “old planters.” The settlement received a new name, Mar-re-Mount, popularly known as Merrymount, for the revelries and free-spirited “misrule” of Mine Host, as Morton dubbed himself.

Merrymount engaged in “the old ways of doing business,” a direct cause of his clash with the Pilgrims and the Puritan advance guard at Salem. Morton's activities reflected decades of interaction between European fishing fleets and traders and Algonquin coastal tribes. Encounters sometimes brutal, as in 1614 when Thomas Hunt kidnapped twenty-seven Wampanoag for Malaga's slave market, Tisquantum among them.

Other meetings were mutually advantageous. English and French visitors bartered for beaver and other pelts; guns were the Indians' most prized trade items, with 'Kill-Devil” or rum not far behind.

By 1578, more than 200 English, French and Biscayan vessels made the Atlantic crossing annually. Ashore at seasonal camps, crews cohabited with the forest maidens, one of the “old ways” Morton embraced. In Puritan eyes, such unions were sinful and contrary to their errand in the wilderness. – Intermarriage would later be expressly forbidden; a settler could face three years' imprisonment for living with “pawns of Satan who might lure the pious from righteousness.”

Morton saw the Massachusetts Indians “more full of humanity than Christians. The more savages the better quarter, the more Christian, the worse quarter I had. These people lead the more happy and freer life, being void of care which torments the minds of many Christians.”

Merrymount supplied guns to Indian hunters; native women gathered sassafras and sarsaparilla for the traders. At one time, five ships lay in the bay off Squantum Head, coming to truck with Morton. Plymouth resented the competition as much as the morals of the “Lord of Misrule,” who was also damned for his Anglican beliefs.

On May Day, 1627, Mine Host and his knights celebrated with their Indian neighbors, the ancient revels around an eighty-foot Maypole garlanded with flowers and crowned with a pair of antler horns. Morton composed a drinking song for his guests:

“...Lasses in beaver coats, come away,
You'll be welcome to us night and day.
Then drink and be merry, merry, merry boys.
Let all you delight in Hymen's joys.”

Governor William Bradford of Plymouth moved against the “school of Athisme (Atheism)” accusing Morton of gun-running forbidden by the Crown, charges dismissed with contempt. Miles Standish – “Captain Shrimp,” to his adversary – marched to exterminate Merrymount. Morton was arrested and hauled into court, though Plymouth lacked jurisdiction over his settlement.

Captain Shrimp favored executing Mine Host, but instead the prisoner was marooned on the Isle of Shoals pending transportation to England to answer charges of arming the heathen and “abusing the Indian women most filthily, as it is notorious.”

The case came to naught and Thomas Morton returned to “Nature's Masterpiece,” continuing to bedevil the magistrates of the new Canaan.

[Images: 17th century matchlock musket and Wampum trade beads, courtesy South Coast Historical Associates; Thomas Morton's signature, from Thomas Morton of Merrymount by Jack Dempsey; Governor William Bradford, from The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, A.C. Addison, 1911; The Big Fish Eat the Small Ones, Peter Breughel the Elder, 1556, Wikipedia ]

Numbers Without People: A Brief Relation of the Population Counts in the Works of Bartolomė de las Casas and Captain John Smith (Notes)

"It is generally thought that up to 100 million indigenous people may have lived in the Americas,” claims Wikipedia's entry on the indigenous population before European contact. This is qualified by a reference to geographer William Denevan's 1976 suggestion of a “consensus count” of 50 million for both continents; estimates for the number of North American Indians at the time of contact range between eight and twelve million.

Bartolomė de las Casas, the sixteenth-century Dominican missionary, was first to open the population debate in his role as scourge of the conquistadors. The cruelties of soldiers and colonists documented by Las Casas are widely corroborated by eye-witnesses of the conquest. More problematical are the friar's estimates of numbers wiped out by the settlers, especially since his mortality figures are attributed to war and massacre, and not epidemics that we now know to be the primary cause of death among the native population.

“We have in forty five or forty eight years wasted and consumed more land than all Europe, yea and part of Asia, does in length and breadth contain, robbing and usurping upon that with all cruelties, wrong and tyrannie, which we have seene well inhabited with humane people, among whom there have been slain twentie Millions of soules,” Las Casas reported.

In addition to 20 million victims on the mainland, Las Casas estimated three million dead in Hispaniola, a million in Jamaica and Saint John's, 550,000 in Nicaragua, and...”I mention not the innumerable multitudes in Cuba, Panuca, Florida, Xalico, Yucatan, Saint Martha, Carthagena, New Granada, River of Plata etc.” (Apologética historia de las Indias, excerpt from Hakluyt Posthumus.)

Captain John Smith's writings on Virginia and New England stand in sharp contrast to Las Casas's estimates:

“The land is not populous, for the men be fewe; their far greater number is of women and children. Within 60 miles of James Towne there are about some 5000 people, but of able men fit for their warres scarse 1500. To nourish so many together they have yet no means, because they make so smal a benefit of their land, be it never so fertill.”

In A Description of New England that follows his 1614 voyage, Smith reports “at least forty habitations” upon the seacoast from Pennobscot to Cape Cod. “Each of these habitations have divers towns and people, and by their descriptions, more than twenty habitations that stretch far up in the country.” In the country of the Massachusett Indians, he sees “great troops of well-proportioned people...very kind but in their fury no less valiant.”

In what is today Boston harbor, Smith finds that “the French having remained here near six weeks, left nothing for us to take occasion to examine the inhabitants' relations, viz if there be near three thousand upon these islands.” (Emphasis is mine, the way I read it, Smith is saying he could not confirm that there were 3,000 on the islands. I have often seen this figure of 3,000 stated as fact.)

Soldier-explorer that he is, Smith notes elsewhere that “30 or 40 good men will be sufficient to bring the salvages in subjection.”

Advertisements for the Inexperienced Planters of New England, or anywhere (1631,) Captain Smith's final publication describes “ a vast land enough for all the people in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and it seems God had provided this country for our nation, destroying the natives by plague, it not touching one Englishman, though many traded and were conversant among them."

For they had three plagues in three successive years near 200 miles along the seacoast, that in some places there scare remained five of a hundred....of five or six hundred about the Massachusetts there remained but thirty, on whom their neighbors fell and slew 28. The two remaining fled the Country till the English came, then they returned and surrendered their country and title to the English.”

In a note on the Spanish colonies, Smith says: “Who is it that knows not what a small handful of Spaniards in the West Indies, subdued millions of the inhabitants, so depopulating those countries they conquered, that they are glad to buy Negroes in Africa at a great rate, in countries far remote from them...

"Notwithstanding, there is for every four or five natural Spaniards, two or three hundred Indians and Negroes; and in Virginia and New England more English than savages that can assemble themselves to assault or hurt them, and it is much better to help to plant a country than unplant it and then replant it: but there Indians were in such multitudes, the Spaniards had no other remedy; and ours such a few, and so dispersed, it were nothing in a short time to bring them to labor and obedience.”

Unlike Las Casas's population counts with their medieval, if not biblical exaggerations, Smith's estimates appear more realistic. Which is not to minimize the devastating collision of Old and New World cultures, only to set a scene as Smith and his contemporaries saw it - a scene centuries away from the propaganda of a new “Black Legend” and its charges of “genocide” against American Indians.

[Images: Bartolome de las Casas, Wikipedia Commons; Captain John Smith, courtesy Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Jamestown Rediscovery; New England Map by John Smith, Wikipedia C0mmons]

Roanoke Island: What Happened to the Lost Colonists of 1587?

“We found the houses taken down and the place very strongly enclosed with a high palisade of great trees, with curtains and flankers very fortlike, and one of the chief trees or posts at the right side of the entrance had the bark taken off, and five feet from the ground in fair capital letters was graven CROATAN, without any cross or sign of distress. We entered the palisade, where we found many bars of iron, two pigs of lead, four fowlers, iron sacker-shot and such like heavy things, thrown here and there, almost overgrown with grass and weeds.” -- John White, Second Voyage, 1590.

On July 22, 1587, 116 men, women and children landed on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina, the second English settlement sponsored by Walter Raleigh. Raleigh's enterprise was launched under a charter granted by Elizabeth I to discover and colonize the “remote heathen and barbarous lands of North America.”

Three years passed before the artist-explorer Governor John White could return with supplies for Roanoke in 1590, primarily because of the Spanish Armada. The colonists had disappeared, among them White's grand-daughter Virginia Dare, first child of English parentage born in the New World.

The mystery of the “lost colony” has endured for four centuries; theories of what happened abound, of which these are most potent:

1. The word “CROATAN” suggests to John White that the settlers had gone to a village of friendly Croatan Indians on the southern part of Hatteras Island. White writes that a move had been planned “from Roanoke 50 miles into the maine” before his departure in 1587. He heads for Hatteras twenty miles away but adverse weather and a lack of anchors and cables forces a drastic change of plan:

Making no attempt to land, he sets course for St. John's in the West Indies there to harry the Spaniard through the winter. A second change of course sees him sailing back across the Atlantic to the Azores where he falls in with the ships of John Hawkins awaiting the inbound treasure fleet from Mexico, and thereafter returns to Plymouth, England.

White's report was bolstered by two observations following the settlement of Jamestown. In 1608, Captain John Smith reported in A True Relation that an Indian informant... “What he knew of the dominions he spared not to acquaint me with, as of certain men cloathed at a place called Ocanahonan, cloathed like me.”

Four years later, William Strachey, secretary of the colony, gave credence to a rumor heard from an Indian named Machumps (described by Smith as “one of the two most exact villains in the country:”)

“At Peccarecamek and Ochanahonen, the people have howses built with stone walls, and one story above another, so taught them by those Englishe who escaped the slaughter at Roanoak...and where the people breed up tame turkeis about their houses, and take apes in the mountaines, and, at Ritanoe, the Weroance Eyanoco preserved seven of the English alive – fower men, two boyes and one young mayde (who escaped and fled up the river of Chanoke,) to beat his copper, of which he hath certain mines.”

Smith and Strachey averred that Chief Powhatan had been responsible for the slaughter of the main body of settlers, Smith saying that Powhatan told him as much during his capture. Had the English truly believed this report, it's unlikely that Powhatan would've escaped with his own life, given that on an earlier occasion the theft of a small silver cup was enough cause for burning a thief's village to the ground.

The belief in captive survivors persisted, the “young mayde” beating copper for her captors seen by some as the legendary “Virginia Dare.”

Eighteenth century historian John Lawson laid the foundation for a genetic trail with his note on a group of Hatteras Indians who “tell us that several of their Ancestors were white People, and could talk in a book as we do; the truth of which is confirmed by gray Eyes being found frequently amongst these Indians and no others.”

Another genetic pointer led inland to what is now Robeson County in North Carolina, where the Lumbee Indians claim descendancy from the Croatans and the English colony. – A DNA project is currently underway to investigate this blood line among descendants of these indigenous people.

2. Did the Roanoke Colony fall to the ships of the guarda costas operating out of St. Augustine, Florida? Over two decades preceding the Roanoke settlements, Spanish expeditions had wiped out French Huguenot bridgeheads in Florida and South Carolina:

At Fort Caroline on the St. John's River in 1564, 132 Frenchmen were hanged, their women and children spared; at Matanzas, another 350 “Protestants” were summarily executed.

As late as 1580, Spaniards were hunting down French interlopers around Port Royal, forty of these “corsairs” living with Indian tribes in the interior. Five years later, the first English contingent arrived at Roanoke. Like the French, Raleigh and his assistants had their eyes on a haven for operations against Spain's treasure galleons.

On June 6, 1586, Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine with a fleet of 23 large and 19 small ships and 2,000 men, who looted the town for seven days before torching it. Reoccupying St. Augustine in August and reinforced by soldiers from Havana, the Spaniards prepared an attack against Roanoke the following June unaware that Drake had taken the first group of colonists back to England.

A month after the abortive raid, the second Roanoke colony was established, only to be left to its own devices for three years during the sea war between England and Spain that climaxed with the Armada.

No evidence has been found in Spain or Portugal that could confirm an attack against Roanoke – Colonial records of Portugal, then under the Spanish Crown, were destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 – Given the extermination of French interlopers and the destruction of St. Augustine by Drake, the idea that the Roanoke colony was targeted by Governor Guiterrez de Miranda of Florida is not far-fetched. Miranda had been alcalde of the town of Santa Elena and commander of Fort Marcos (Parris Island,) where the French had originally established Port Royal.

3. The fate of the first French colonists at Port Royal suggests another plausible scenario for the “lost colony.”

In 1562, mutiny and starvation drove the twenty-five men and boys at Port Royal to build a twenty-ton sloop in which they crossed the wintry Atlantic, a harrowing voyage in which they resorted to cannibalism to survive. They were picked up by an English ship in sight of the European coast.

The Roanoke settlers may have been driven by similar desperation to attempt a voyage back home only to be lost forever in the depths of the ocean.

John White never got another chance to return to America and died in Ireland three years after his 1590 voyage... “thus committing the relief of my discomfortable company the planters in Virginia, to the merciful help of the Almighty, whom I most humbly beseech to helpe and comfort them, according to his most holy will.” (Letter to Richard Hakluyt, 4 February, 1593)

[Images: Sir Walter Raleigh, Nicholas Hillard, Wikipedia Commons; Indians Dancing Around a Circle of Posts, John White, from Virtual Jamestown, licensed by the Trustees of the British Museum. ©Copyright the British Museum; Powhatan's Deerskin Mantle with Shell Map, 1608, original artifact (four pieces of tanned buckskin, measuring 2.33 meters long by 1.5 meters wide) preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; 16th century towns of Spanish Florida, map courtesy Chester B. DePratter, History of Santa Elena (see also Charlesfort/Santa Elena project); Defeat of the Spanish Armada, Loutherbourg, courtesy National Maritime Museum, U.K., Wikipedia Commons; Roanoke and environs, map by John Smith 1585, with annotations.]

Write What You Know -- A Note about "Notes"

I’ve never heard the thunder of battle, and God forbid, I’ve never robbed a corpse. But when the guns fell still on the field of Acosta Ñu in Paraguay one August night in 1869, I kept watch on three men from the parapet of an earthworks.
“Ai, caramba! Meninos . . .meninos . . . meninos!” Tipoana complained. Boys! Just boys! No commanders-in-chief with gold crosses and silver spurs; no select pickings for Urubu, king of corpse robbers! He prowled down there all the same, rolling over small, mutilated bodies, poking into pockets, exclaiming hopefully when he came to an old man who had come to battle in a shabby frock coat. But the veteran’s pockets offered nothing of value to Tipoana.

“You’re wasting your time,” Henrique Inglez said. “The bones of Paraguay are picked clean!” He turned to Antônio: “What more does he want?”

They all had their share, Antônio knew. He himself owned a pouch of gold and silver coins.

Urubu came back along the trench. “Meninos!” he whined. “Not one peso among the lot of them!” There was a boy at his feet. Urubu bent down to pluck something from the corpse. Chuckling malevolently, he straightened up, holding the object in the light of his lantern.

Henrique’s long, narrow face contorted with rage, his buckteeth bared. “Savage!” he shouted at Tipoana. “Heartless savage! Dead, brave boys! They deserve respect!”

“Let it be, Tipoana,” Antônio Paciência said. “They fought and died like men, did they not?”

The object Tipoana dangled in the lantern light was a crudely fashioned false beard. Every boy in this trench had strapped one of these to his jaw hoping to make the macacos think he was a man.

To write what I knew about Acosta Ñu from field reports of the great war in Paraguay was one thing. I had to understand the reasons why. I had to see in my mind’s eye every clump of blood red macega grass where eighteen hundred children fell. To be “witness” I had to know passion.

The Notes I post as I research are tiny markers on my way to understanding the great themes of this land and its people. Some notes will ultimately have no bearing on what emerges in the manuscript; some will spark new ideas; some will on deeper reflection be a folly best avoided.

For the historical novelist to write with an authentic voice demands painstaking research or, as the adage says, ninety percent perspiration, ten percent inspiration. These online examples of Notes made during the writing of Brazil and Covenant give a good idea of what’s involved: Nicolau Cavalcanti [Brazil] and The Promised Land: Limited or Horizonless? [Covenant]

I dig deeply to get an honest picture of time and place and people. I feel I’m ready to write when I can put aside my Notes and bring the story to life as if I was living it – to be there is to know.

[Images: Paraguayan boy soldiers, courtesy Museo Histórico Nacional, Buenos Aires]

Those Vast and Unpeopled Countries of America [Notes]

"Those vast and unpeopled countries of America which are fruitful and fit for habitation, being devoid of all civil inhabitants, where there are only savage and brutish men which range up and down, little otherwise than the wild beasts of the same." -- William Bradford
The Spanish soldiers and settlers who landed on our shores in the sixteenth century rarely get a mention in history books, and if they do, are mostly damned for trying.

Scorn of these pioneers first rose in their own day, when the overseas treasure of Spain and Portugal inflamed the jealousies of England, France and Holland. A direct response came from the guns of raiders like Francis Drake, Jean Fleury, and Piet Hein who plundered the fleets of New Spain and the Indies.

Equally effective was a propaganda war waged by writers like evangelist-geographer Richard Hakluyt whose Divers Voyages touching the Discoverie of America...Made First of all by our Englishmen (1582) and later Navigations sang the glories of England's captains and beat the drums for Empire.

Other tracts drew on exposes of friars like Bartolomé de Las Casas to depict the Iberian conquerors as barbarous sadists who butchered millions of Arawak, Mexica and Inca. Lurid histories that were grist to the mills of Protestant fanatics railing against the terrors of the Inquisition and depravities of a despised Papacy and its cassocked foot-soldiers.

The Black Legend
,” as this anti-Spanish propaganda became known, gained fresh fervor in the early 1800s with the westward expansion of the United States, the possessions of Spain and Mexico seen as an impediment to a new nation's manifest destiny.

Historians like William H. Prescott were rare, his contemporaries fixing on Plymouth Rock for the founding myth. – Some gave a reluctant nod to the Jamestown settlement, a concession battered by prejudice against the South. – Most scholars dismissed the early Spanish settlements as of no value to the perceived heritage of America.

At St. Augustine in 1602, a royal investigator was sent from Havana to decide the future of La Florida. Eighteen veterans, some in the colony since its founding in 1565, took the stand and except for one old nay-sayer recommending abandonment, the rest were unanimous: “Stay!” they declared. Across the continent, too, New Mexico's founders were settled at San Gabriel and Santa Fe, as committed to America as those who came after them.

In his book, To the Inland Empire, Stewart Udall suggests that with the Hispanic segment of our population increasing each year, we should pluck our Spanish century from the wastebasket of history:

“Pineda, Ponce de Leon, Cabeza de Vaca, Esteban the Moor, Cabrillo, Melchior Diaz, Coronado, De Soto – the deeds of these American pioneers resonate through the annals of our history, and the imprint they and their ancestors left on our culture is both permanent and profound.

“It will make our national stage more spacious if we reached out and recognized these “other” Pilgrim Fathers. The story of the American frontier will have a different flavor if we add the dash and spice of Spain's sixteenth century. And our ethos will surely be magnified if we have the Mayflower folk move over and allow the authentic first families of our sixteenth century to share their symbolic front-pew at out national processionals.”

[Images: horse-drawn carros crossing a river, Camino Real online exhibit and sixteenth century iron breast plate, both courtesy
Museum of New Mexico; St. Augustine, 1580, depiction by Noel Sickles (Courtesy of St. Augustine Foundation, Flagler College), see also St. Augustine, America's Ancient City]

Three Spaniards Came Wearing Thousand League Boots [Notes]

Since New Year’s Day, I’ve been immersed in the chronicles of three Spaniards, who were the first Europeans to explore the interior of North America.

* Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was treasurer and second in command of Panfilo de Narvaez’s 1527 expedition to "La Florida," not the peninsula alone but Spain’s North American possessions. With the papal treaty of Tordesillas dividing the known world between Catholic Spain and Portugal as guide, Madrid could claim most of the Americas – the eastern bulge of Brazil excepted and thus in the sway of Lisbon. Geographers had a vague notion of the extent of North America and an idea that it was an island with fabled Cipangu (Japan) across a narrow sea to the north.

In Florida, Cabeza de Vaca – "Cow’s Head," a family name honoring an ancestor’s decisive stratagem against the Moors in 1212 – found himself part of an ill-fated expedition that collapsed after six months, decimated by hunger and disease and cut down in clashes with Indians. The survivors built five boats to flee back to Cuba, all of which were swept away and wrecked, Cabeza de Vaca’s group cast up on or near Galveston Island on the Texas coast in November 1528.

Cabeza de Vaca wandered the Southwest, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of three other survivors, including Esteban, a black Moroccan. On occasion brutally handled by his captors, Cabeza de Vaca rose to be an itinerant trader and healer, his cures making him a proto-type of the wandering miracle-worker evangelists of centuries to come. – Cabeza de Vaca’s seven-year-odyssey ended with a hero’s welcome in Mexico City in 1536, his epic adventure written down and published as Le Relación in 1542.

* In February 1540, the conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado left Compostela five hundred miles northwest of Mexico City, going to seek the Seven golden cities of Cibola. "It was the most brilliant company ever assembled in the Indies to go in search of new lands," wrote Pedro de Castaneda in his record of the expedition that lasted two years and penetrated as far inland as the plains of modern Kansas.

Coronado’s entrada was marked by bloody encounters with the Zuni at the Battle of Hawikuh in July 1540 and against the Tigua pueblos along the Rio Grande the following winter. Two hundred Indians perished in the Tiguëx War, thirty native captives burned at the stake in the pueblo of Arenal.

Don Francisco found no golden empire but in writing to his sovereign observed that "the country itself is the best I have ever seen for producing all the products of Spain, for besides the land itself being very flat and black and being very well watered by the rivulets and springs and rivers, I found prunes like those of Spain and nuts and very good sweet grapes and mulberries.

... And I found such a quantity of cows in these, of the kind that I wrote Your Majesty about, which they have in this country, that it is impossible to number them, for while I was journeying through these plains, until I returned to where I first found them, there was not a day that I lost sight of them."

* Eight months before Coronado set out, Hernando de Soto landed in Florida with more than six hundred men. Forty-year-old De Soto was a battle-hardened veteran of the conquests of Panama, Nicaragua and Peru, his service with Pizarro and other conquistadors winning him a fortune in gold which he used to fund his expedition to La Florida.

From May 1539 until De Soto’s death from fever in the spring of 1542, the army marched from Florida north through Georgia and the Carolinas, west into Tennessee, back down through northwestern Georgia, and into Alabama. Encounters with the Southeast Indians were mixed, sometimes amicable, sometimes a repeat of the conquistador’s bloody passage through the lands of the Inca. – At Mabila in Alabama, Spaniards and Indians fought a battle in which as many as 2,500 natives may have perished. – From there, De Soto’s army headed northwest into Mississippi and Arkansas.

Following their commander’s death, the Spaniards attempted to march through Texas to Mexico, but dwindling supplies forced them back to the Mississippi River. In June 1543, setting out in seven brigantines and harassed by canoe flotillas, 311 survivors reached the Gulf of Mexico.

Gracilaso de la Vega, the Inca, one of De Soto’s chroniclers, lamented the death of fourteen hundred countrymen, as well as twenty-four friars in expeditions to La Florida before 1568:

"It was possible that he (De Soto) could have laid the foundations of an empire that could compete today with New Spain and El Peru, because of the extent and fertility of the land and in its advantages for cultivation and cattle raising it is not inferior to any of the others. There may be gold and silver mines, and I do not doubt that they would have been found had they been sought for carefully...Meanwhile they could have enjoyed the other wealth that we have seen is there.

"I shall earnestly and repeatedly supplicate the king, our lord, and the Spanish nation not to permit that a land so good, which their people have traversed and of which they have taken possession, shall remain outside their empire and dominion."
The Chronicles

[Images: Cabeza de Vaca mural, Ojinaga, Mexico; Coronado portrait, courtesy PBS, The West; Coronado entrada, Frederic Remington, Wikipedia commons; Hernando de Soto, courtesy Library of Congres; Cabeza de Vaca map, courtesy Texas Beyond History based on 2004 Alex Krieger chart; Coronado map, courtesy Perry-Castenada Library Map Collection ; De Soto map, Heironymous Rowe, Wikipedia, based on 1997 Charles Hudson map]

A Lost World of America: Where the Falcon Priest-King Danced (Notes)

Five hundred years before the English landings at Jamestown and Plymouth, an ancient metropolis flourished on a flood plain of the Mississippi River near its confluence with the Missouri and the Illinois. Twenty thousand people dwelled in the city in 1150 A.D., more than the population of London a century later; another ten thousand lived in satellite farming settlements on the surrounding bottomland.

A royal mound dominated the landscape rising one hundred feet, a flat-topped pyramid on a tiered base greater in circumference than Khufu at Giza or the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico. The palace of the Falcon Priest-King, as I dub him, overlooked a forty-acre grand ceremonial plaza flanked by twenty or so smaller mounds and enclosed by a two-mile long log palisade buttressed with bastions at regular intervals.

Three plazas lay outside the royal enclosure with as many as eighty additional mounds of varying size sited across the six square mile extent of the metropolis and aligned with the Great Mound. A circular "Woodhenge" ringed with forty-eight towering posts served as observatory and "spirit trail," sacred portal to the hereafter.

We call the city "Cahokia," a name taken from a local tribe centuries later. The royal pyramid we know as Monks Mound from Trappist monks who did their meditations on these sacred grounds from 1809 to 1813. The fathers planted an orchard and garden on the summit of the great mound, where today’s visitor may catch a distant glimpse of the skyline of St. Louis, Missouri and the Gateway Arch, a geometric marvel not without symbolism, too, in the mythic realm of the Falcon Priest-King.

What’s remarkable is that except for archaeologists studying the Mississippian mound-builders, until recently few people had any idea of the extent of this lost world. Like most I had scant knowledge of the grassy platforms and knolls that once were temple, burial and effigy mounds scattered across the Midwest and South: sites that could hardly be compared with the stone monuments I’d seen across Mexico.

Known to Europeans since the time of Hernando De Soto, in the nineteenth century the mounds were declared to be the work of lost Israelites, Atlanteans, celestial visitors, any architects other than the "savages" whose descendants dwelled in those parts. Generations of East Coast schoolchildren took their cue from the tales of Pilgrim and Puritan building their own City on a Hill.

Today we are beginning to see Cahokia in a new light, the recovered quarter of the mounds now a World Heritage Site. In 2004, the Art Institute of Chicago organized the Hero, Hawk and Open Hand exhibition of American Indian Art from Cahokia, Etowah, Spiro and far beyond. [Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South ] The collection revealed work of stunning artistry flowing from a social and trade network that reached from Florida and the Gulf Coast to Lake Superior, from Yellowstone down to Caddo, Texas. This vibrant culture endured for four centuries from 900 A.D. to 1350 A.D. with the City by the Rivers at the center of its world.

A place where on a day in 1150, thousands crowd the grand plaza as the Falcon Priest-King emerges from a temple atop the Mound of the Sun, his robe a glistening garment of sheets of mica. As the sun reaches the zenith, the Falcon Priest-King begins to dance in celebration of the New Fire...

[Images: Cahokia 1150 A.D., courtesy Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, artist William R. Iseminger -- The website site has an award-winning flash movie depicting Cahokia's past; Monks Mound, Cahokia, Wikipedia; "Bird-man" (1200-1400) on a repoussé copper plate from the Etowah site, Georgia, courtesy of Texas Beyond History, University of Texas at Austin.]

Of Mrs. Ples, Lucy and Kennewick Man (Notes)

As Science Correspondent of the Johannesburg Star, I had the good fortune to "meet" Mrs. Ples, one of the denizens of Southern Africa’s cradle of mankind.

The 2.5 million year old skull of Mrs. Ples, who belonged to the species Australopithecus Africanus, was found at Sterkfontein outside Pretoria in 1947. A discovery foreshadowing three decades of excavation at various sites in Africa until 1974, when "Lucy" emerged at Hadar, Ethiopia: Lucy was from Australopithecus afarensis, a related species living 3.9 million to2.9million years ago.

The bones of Mrs. Ples and Lucy and lesser primeval celebrities contributed immeasurably to a fundamental understanding of our origin and diversity. Work being enhanced today by molecular anthropologists’ unraveling of the human family’s DNA.A particular area of focus is the migration pattern out of Africa and peopling of other continents.

In North America, where the story begins late in the day, one of the rare finds is Kennewick Man, who breathed his last beside the Columbia River in Washington around 9,300 years ago.

Found in 1996, Kennewick Man became the subject of a court dispute pitting eight scientists against local tribal voices who argued that The Ancient One be re-interred without probing his origins. The views of the opposing sides are fully aired on the websites, Friends of the Past and The Ancient One, as well as in voluminous material furnished by federal agencies who to this day remain custodians of the bones.

Kennewick Man skull and face reconstruction by James C. Chatters
and Thomas McClelland.
Dr. Chatters is the author of
Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans, his
firsthand account of the discovery and subsequent controversy.

After eight years of dragging the ancient warrior through the courts – a broken-off spear point was embedded in his right pelvis – the Native Americans withdrew from the case. It’s their intention to press for amendments to NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) that will make the locality of such a find and not proven ancestral affinity a key criteria. Were this to come about, it could effectively end scientific research into the origin of North Americans.

In 1974, Lucy’s guardians allowed her bones to travel from Ethiopia to Cleveland, where scientists studied the fossil for six years before safely returning the remains to Addis Ababa. In 2007, Lucy began a second journey on a six-year exhibition sponsored by the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture.

Says Dr. Donald Johanson, the scientist who discovered Lucy: "Understanding who we are is not just a matter of idle curiosity. It is a matter of survival for our own species as well as for the millions of other species with whom we share Earth. For without clearer understanding of who we are, we fall far short of the kind of future we would want for ourselves and for our children."

In her homeland, Lucy is known as Dinknesh (meaning "Wonderful Thing" in Amharic). Today, she is on display at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. – The bones of Kennewick Man are preserved less than five miles away at the Burke Museum of Natural History. Unlike Lucy, the Ancient One is silent.

[Images: Finding Lucy, Lucy's Legacy (PBS excerpt), from Pacific Science Center; Kennewick Man, courtesy Dr. James C. Chatters and Thomas McClelland, see also Meet Kennewick Man by Jim Chatters, (Nova), Lucy's Skeleton, courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science]

Through the Eye of the Needle -- Solutrean Hypothesis (Note)

Twenty thousand years ago, while pioneers of the ice frontier braved Beringia, a continent away Stone Age hunters with Clovis-like weapons preyed on herds of horses running free south of the European ice-shelf.

Known to us as Solutreans, from the paleolithic site of Solutré in south-west France, striking similarities between their artifacts and the bifacial, fluted and flaked points found in America led some anthropologists to propose a dramatic new scenario for the peopling of the eastern seaboard.

Between 20,000 to 17,000 years ago, Solutrean voyagers made the Atlantic passage bringing their flint-knapping techniques to these shores and contributing to the first American “melting pot” when their descendants mingled with the Asian-Siberian migrants.

Among eminent scientists supporting the Solutrean hypothesis: Dr. Dennis Stanford, chairman of the Anthropology Department of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute, and Professor Bruce Bradley, teaching at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

Their research was recently the subject of a BBC Horizon program, Stone Age Columbus (November 21, 2008.) Archaeologist Bradley worked with his French colleagues looking for the story the stones tell – flint flakes collected at sites where the spearheads were made reveal distinctive manufacturing process.

The Solutreans fashioned their points in ways unique to Clovis and more pointedly unlike workmanship by their Asian counterparts; no matching pre-Clovis artefacts have been found at Siberian and East Asian sites. – At Cactus Hill in Virginia, a 16,000 year old find has all the marks of a Solutrean flint-knapper’s work.

Stanford focused his attention on the seemingly impossible voyage of a Stone-Age Columbus: Answers came from the likeliest of all places and people, the Eskimos of Barrow, Alaska. As in ages past, the Eskimos still take to the sea in whaling boats crafted with sealskin and wood and bound with caribou sinews.

When Stanford showed an Indian woman a bone needle, she saw nothing extraordinary in the item, similar to needles her own grandmother used to sew caribou garments with waterproof seams. “This needle is 20,000 years old,” said Dr. Stanford, the relic from the Solutreans who would’ve used such needles to fashion clothing for their long voyage.

Unlike the Admiral of the Ocean Seas, the Solutrean navigators would’ve found their way across an Atlantic studded with bergs and ice packs, bivouacking on the frozen shelves when they were exhausted, living off the bounty of the waters that carried them to the New World.
[Images: Solutrean horse-hunters, courtesy Old Stone Age; Eskimo Family, Wikipedia/National Geographic; needle and fish hook, Solutreans ]

Clovis - Breaking Points (Notes)

The spearhead that transfixed American archaeologists for sixty years was uncovered in a dried up lake bed near Clovis, New Mexico in 1929.Mammoth bones found in the proximity enabled scientists to date this kill to 13,500 years ago, making the projectile then the oldest Stone Age artifact discovered on the continent.

The fluted sides and sharp serrated edges of the Clovis point gave hunters a lethal weapon that decimated herds of mammoth, giant armadillo and other megafauna.

For much of the 20th century, mainstream archaeologists held fast to a "Clovis First" theory: Big game hunters from Asia crossing the Bering land bridge, drifting down to the killing fields on the plains and in the arroyos, becoming the ancestors of the first tribes of America.

In the 1970s, one of the earliest challenges to the Clovis Firsters came from James Adovasio excavating below the 13,500-year level at Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania:

Adovasio’s meticulously detailed analysis dated occupation of the shelter to 16,000 years ago.

Initial scorn for the dissenters gave way to reluctant acceptance with the uncovering of no fewer than twenty-eight creditable pre-Clovis sites across North America, and in South America where Monte Verde in Chile was occupied between 14,220 to 13,980 years ago.

No finds were are dramatic than those at Topper in Allendale County, South Carolina. Archaeologist Al Goodyear and his team had already devoted fourteen years to probing an ancient chert quarry in the area, when flooding of the Savannah River forced them to the higher Topper ground in 1998.

In 2002, Topper artifacts returned a radiocarbon dating of 16,000-20,000 years ago. Two years later, Goodyear found stone age tools embedded in a white sand stone with a layer of charcoal from 50,000 years ago. While there are sceptics aplenty to chip away at Topper, Dr. Goodyear continues to dig deeper.

[Images: Clovis Point, courtesy National Park Service; Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Mark McConaughy; Meadowcroft Excavation Site, courtesy Heinz History Center; Topper artifacts, courtesy Topper Site Virtual Museum]