MOUNDS OF EARTH AND SHELL
Reviewed by Patricia Fry
Reviewed by Patricia Fry
Volume 22 Number 3
Mounds of Earth and Shell, the fifth book in Bonnie Shemie's series of native dwellings of North America, focuses on the sacred and ceremonial sites in the American southeast. Like its predecesors, this book follows the same format of two pages of detailed information and black-and-white sketches interspersed with a double-page colour illustration depicting an imagined scene in that period, in that place. Unlike the earlier books in this series, this one features a people whose culture had all but vanished when Europeans first made their appearance on the North American continent.
Thousands of mounds made of earth have been found in the American southeast. They vary in size from a few metres across to gigantic structures using tons of earth. One of the earliest earthen structures was built in what is now northern Louisiana about 1700 B.C. and it was probably a great religious centre. Because the venues that cut through the mounds seem to mark the positions of the sun at different seasons of the year, some scientists believe the structure was a vast calendar.
When European settlement reached America, the mounds that characterized this civilization were overgrown. Excavations of these mounds have revealed sophisticated cities and centres of worship. Objects found in the mounds and burial sites allow us to visualize how these ancient peoples lived. Anthropologists speculate that some mounds were ritual centres because of the effigy pipes and polished enemy skulls.
This book deals with a culture that will be less familiar to students than those of the North American native peoples dealt with in the earlier books of this series. Some of the rituals of these "Sun God" tribes are simiiar to those of South American native peoples. Because Mounds of Earth and Shell deals with a time period that ended before the Europeans arrived, each school librarian will have to decide the extent to which this particular book supports the local curriculum.
Recommended, provided it supports the curriculum.
Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario
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