Adovasio, J.M. 1944–

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Adovasio, J.M. 1944–

(James M. Adovasio)


Born February 17, 1944, in Youngstown, OH; married (wife deceased). Education: University of Arizona, B.A.; University of Utah, Ph.D., 1970; Washington and Jefferson University, D.Sc., 1983.


Office— Anthropology & Archaeology Department, Mercyhurst College, 501 E. 38th St., Erie, PA 16546. E-mail— [email protected]


Anthropologist, educator, writer, and editor. Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH, 1970-71, adjunct associate professor, 1976-78; University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant to associate professor, 1972-79, director of Cultural Resource Management Program, 1976-90, professor of anthropology, 1979-90, chairperson of the department of anthropology, 1980-89, professor of geology and planetary sciences, 1985-90. Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA, has held various positions, including John E. Boyle professor of anthropology and archaeology and professor of geology, director of the department of anthropology and archaeology, director of the department of geology, chairperson of science division, founder and director of Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, and dean of the Zurn School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, 1990—. Career-related activities include Smithsonian Institution, research associate, 1974; Carnegie Museum, research associate 1978; Archaeological Resources Protection Act cases, U.S. Government, Arizona and New Mexico, expert witness, 1987; Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, director of archaeology research program, 1990-93; Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, commissioner, 1995-2003; board of directors of Preservation Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State Historical Preservation Board, 1995-2003.


American Anthropological Association, Society for American Archaeology, American Quaternary Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Penn Archaeology, New York Academy of Sciences, American Schools for Oriental Research, Phi Beta Sigma, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi.


Rhodes Scholarship, State of Arizona, 1966; National Defense Education Act (NDEA) Fellow, University of Utah, 1968-70; named to Outstanding Young Men of America, 1978; Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, 1995; National Geographic Society grant, 1993; International Research Experience for Science Students (IRES); Wenner Gren Foundation research grant, 1995; J. Alden Mason award, 1997, for lifetime contributions to Pennsylvania archaeology.


Basketry Technology: A Guide to Identification and Analysis, drawings by Edward Schumacher and Rhonda Andrews, Aldine (Chicago, IL), 1977.

(With F.J. Vento, J. Donahue, and others)Excavations at Dameron Rockshelter (15JO23A) Johnson County, Kentucky, Department of Anthropology (Pittsburgh, PA), 1980.

(With R.L. Andrews, and R.C. Carlisle)Perishable Industries from Dirty Shame Rockshelter, Malheur County, Oregon: A Series of Chapters, foreword by C. Melvin Aikens, introduction by C. Melvin Aikens, David L. Cole, and Robert Stuckenrath, edited by R.C. Carlisle, Department of Anthropology (Pittsburgh, PA), 1986.

(With Nancy Schiffer)Baskets, revised 3rd edition, Schiffer Publishing (Atglen, PA), 2001.

(Editor, with Kurt W. Carr)Ice Age Peoples of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Harrisburg, PA), 2002.

(With Jake Page)The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery, Random House (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Olga Soffer and Jake Page)The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory, Smithsonian Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Anthropology of the Desert West: Essays in Honor of Jesse D. Jennings, edited by Carol J. Condie and Don D. Fowler, University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1986; and The Archaic Period in Pennsylvania: Hunter-Gatherers of the Early and Middle Holocene, edited by Paul A. Raber, Patricia E. Miller, and Sarah M. Neusius, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (Harrisburg, PA), 1998. Contributor of book reviews and articles to professional journals; reviewer for the Library Journal,1973.


J.M. Adovasio is an archaeologist who specializes in prehistory, archaeological method and theory, prehistoric technology and material analysis, and geoarchaeology, as well as the archaeology of North America, Mesoamerica, and the former Soviet Union. He is known in archaeological circles for his excavation of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, which is located thirty miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, near Avella in Washington County. Meadowcroft has been recognized as the earliest well-dated archaeological site in the Western Hemisphere, with evidence of human habitation dating 14,000 to 16,000 years ago. Adovasio was a young archaeologist at the time but quickly found himself in the center of a debate concerning the accuracy of the carbon-dating for the artifacts. To this day, some archaeologists remain unconvinced that they are, in fact, as old as several carbon dating studies have indicated. Adovasio, on the other hand, has remained a staunch supporter of his work and its proof that people lived in the Western hemisphere long before many experts once believed.

Adovasio is also the author or editor of numerous books focusing on archaeology, many of which include data from his work at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. In The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery, Adovasio and coauthor Jake Page explore the long-standing question of who were the first people to live in America. A Science News contributor called The First Americans "a lively look at a contentious debate by a man in the middle of it." Chauncey Mabe, writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, noted: "All in all,The First Americans is about as good as popular science writing gets."

In the book, Adovasio and Page present Adovasio's findings at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter as evidence against the long-held theory that the Clovis people, also known as the Paleo-Indians, were the first inhabitants of the New World. Much of the argument is based on the artifacts found at Meadowcroft, which date thousands of years before the archaeologists believe the Clovis people came into existence, which is currently dated at around 9200 to 8500 BC. In the book, the authors examine various theories and beliefs concerning the first Americans, much of the research done in this area, and various theoretical approaches to the issue.

Writing a review of The First Americans in American Antiquity, archaeologist Bruce B. Huckell pointed out that a lot of controversy still exists in archaeological circles concerning the true age of the artifacts found by Adovasio and colleagues at Meadowcroft and that these artifacts form the basis for much of the authors' case for pre-Clovis people living in the America. Nevertheless, Huckell noted: "For the most part the eleven chapters comprising this book make for a very readable, entertaining, and informative treatment of the history of research into the peopling of the Americas, late Pleistocene environments, and the current state of knowledge." Booklist contributor Philip Herbst also called the book "a lively, close-up view of how archaeologists study America's original discoverers." Several reviewers also noted that the book is suitable for all readers. "Written with candor, humor, and passion, this well-documented study makes the latest findings accessible to general readers and students," wrote Joan W. Gartland in the Library Journal.

Adovasio collaborated with Olga Soffer and Jake Page to write The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory. In the book, the authors note that most archaeologists have been men and that, despite a growing number of women in the field, analysis of prehistoric people has remained a biased affair that focuses almost exclusively on men and pays scant attention to women or children. When women are examined and written about, they have been relegated to noncentral roles in both the Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures and are primarily assigned a sexual role in a culture in which men were the shamans, inventors, and artists. In contrast to this overriding view in archaeology, the authors present theories and evidence of the important role that women played in prehistoric history. "Women, according to the authors, had an important part to play in the agricultural revolution," commented Laurence A. Marschall in Natural History. "Just as important, though perhaps less well appreciated, women in both ancient and modern cultures have been the ones involved most directly in producing textiles." The authors also present theories that women were responsible not only for developing cooking and weaving techniques but may also have played the most important role in the development of human language.

Patricia Monaghan, writing in Booklist, called The Invisible Sex "an engaging book that sets the record straight." Referring to the book as "jauntily written," a Kirkus Reviews contributor went on to write in the same review: "The authors pursue all kinds of interesting theories, such as Bryan Sykes's postulation that there are seven descendants of protowoman Eve." Other reviewers also had high praise for the book. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called it a "jauntily written, highly convincing analysis by influential anthropologists."



American Antiquity, April, 1995, Thomas J. Connolly, "Early Holocene Basketry and Cordage from Daisy Cave San Miguel Island, California," p. 309; January, 2006, Bruce B. Huckell, review of The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery, p. 187.

Booklist, June 1, 2002, Philip Herbst, review of The First Americans, p. 1671; January 1, 2007, Patricia Monaghan, review of The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory, p. 28.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 2003, A.B. Kehoe, review of The First Americans, p. 1222.

Hobbies, January, 1985, review of Baskets, p. 76.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2002, review of The First Americans, p. 713; December 15, 2006, review of The Invisible Sex, p. 1249.

Library Journal, July 2002, Joan W. Gartland, review of The First Americans, p. 94; January, 2003, review of The First Americans, p. 48.

Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2002, Bernadette Murphy, "Book Review; On a Passionate Mission to Track the First Americans," p. 3.

Natural History, May 2007, Laurence A. Marschall, review of The Invisible Sex, p. 50.

New Scientist, March 31, 2007, Germaine Greer, "Not So Simple, Not So Strange: How Do You Give Prehistoric Woman Her Due? Not by Assuming She Was One of the Boys," p. 49.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 25, 2006, Janice Crompton, "A Look Back: National Geographic Explores 16,000-Year-Old Rockshelter."

Pittsburgh Tribune Review, September 30, 2007, Jennifer Reeger, "Digging Up the Past."

PR Newswire, August 2, 2001, "Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Will Commemorate Humboldt Refinery with Historical Marker," p. 2772; August 2, 2001, "PHMC Will Commemorate Oil Pioneer Jacob J. Vandergrift with Historical Marker," p. 2868.

Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2002, review of The First Americans, p. 51; December 18, 2006, review of The Invisible Sex, p. 56.

Science Books & Films, July 1, 2007, Donald H. Puretz, "300 Social Sciences, Anthropology," review of The Invisible Sex, p. 153.

Science News, October 19, 2002, review of The First Americans, p. 255; April 21, 2007, review of The Invisible Sex, p. 255.

Scientific American, September, 2002, review of The First Americans, p. 98; June, 2007, review of The Invisible Sex, p. 99.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 11, 2002, Chauncey Mabe, review of The First Americans.

Tribune Books(Chicago, IL), August 24, 2003, review of The First Americans, p. 6.

Wall Street Journal, August 27, 2002, Mark Lasswell, "They All Came before Christopher Columbus," review of The First Americans, p. 8.


Archaeological Institute of America, (November 28, 2007), faculty profile of author.

CBS News Web site, (August 22, 2003), "Human Evidence In Archaeological Find Still At Issue 30 Years Later."

HarperCollins Web site, (November 28, 2007), brief profile of author.

Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute Web site, (November 28, 2007), faculty profile of author.

Minnesota State University Mankato Web site, (November 28, 2007), "Meadowcroft Rock Shelter."

Pittsburgh Diary, (November 28, 2007), "Meadowcroft Shelter."