In 1908, near Folsom, New Mexico, a cowboy discovered the remains of a herd of extinct giant bison. By examining flint points embedded in the bones, archaeologists determined that a band of humans had killed the animals 12,450 years ago. While this discovery expanded America’s known human history, it also showed the long-standing danger Homo sapiens has presented to North America’s evolutionary richness.
Historian Dan Flores chronicles the epoch in which humans and animals have coexisted in the “wild new world” of North America—a place shaped by evolutionary forces and momentous arrivals of humans from Asia, Africa, and Europe. These arrivals precipitated a massive disruption of the teeming environment they found. In telling the story, Flores sees humans not as a species apart but as a new animal entering a place that had never seen our like before.
He traces the origins of today’s sixth mass extinction to the spread of humans around the world; tells the history of a hundred centuries of Native America; explains how Old World ideologies were responsible for 400 years of market-driven slaughter that devastated many ancient American species; and explores the decline and miraculous recovery of species in recent decades.
Flores is a professor emeritus at the University of Montana. His book Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals and People in America (W.W. Norton & Company) is available for purchase.
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