We are living in a truly fantastic time. The past few years
have produced some of the greatest books ever written about archaeology
and prehistoric cultural material. One such book is Birth
of a Culture, by Teresa K. Putty and Don R. Ham, a “must-have” library
addition for professionals and collectors.
Birth of a Culture contains a wealth of photos of impressive
objects from a previously under published period of pre-history.
The Red Jasper Focus culture (3000 B.C.-600 A.D.) of Middle-
Eastern Tennessee was characterized by a sophisticated combination
of utilitarian design and creative artistic flair. For many professionals
and collectors several images of important objects will be seen
for the first time in this book.
This reviewer recalls the skeptical responses of many when the
Red Jasper Focus assemblage was first presented at artifact shows- “This
material is just too perfect, and there is just too much of it
to be real!” But as more people were able to examine the material
up-close and- personal, and as people became aware of the truly
remarkable circumstances and the unique manner in which the material
had been excavated and curated, the doubts disappeared.
Show sponsors who at first were hesitant to permit the material
to be displayed began calling Don Ham to make sure he was now
bringing that “awesome case” to their shows, their general opinion
having been changed to “Wow! Everyone needs to be able to see
this stuff! It's really important!” Important it is, and the
book underlines that fact.
Through the professional efforts of archaeologist
author Teresa K. Putty and the benevolent dedication and commitment
of the assemblage curator Don R. Ham, Birth of a Culture now
makes it possible for every professional and every collector
and anyone interested in the Red Jasper Focus people to personally
have their own valuable reference with clear images of important
cultural material. Upon studying the book one will quickly realize
the word “Wow!” only partially acknowledges the importance and
the uniqueness of this assemblage.
In addition the tastefully presented photos of the actual Red
Jasper Focus sites throughout the book serve as garnishments
to the story told by the well prepared photos and text, and they
become an additional important contribution of this impressive
work. As one studies the riverine settings of those sites the
tendancy is to vicariously imagine the excitement of discovery
and seeing for the first time in centuries the magnificent remnants
of a once thriving culture.
Perhaps the greatest message this book offers to professionals
and collectors is that much can be gained through cooperative
efforts of those who have an insatiable appetite to see more
and learn more and think and conjecture more about those wonderful
prehistoric people. Birth of a Culture is an important
entree to help satisfy that appetite.
This most comprehensive and well presented book, like a favorite
recipe, will be cherished and often revisited and kept-on-a-shelf-close-by!