11,000 Years Lost, by Peni R. Griffin, for Timeslip Tuesday

11,000 Years Lost, by Peni R. Griffin (2006)

Esther's chance find of Paleoindian artifacts near her Texas school sets in motion events that culminate with her traveling back in time 11000 years, to the very end of the Ice Age. There she is taken in by a group of Native Americans, who, because Esther just happened to be in the right place at the right time, brought them good luck. She quickly learns enough of their language to communicate (a rather remarkable thing), and gradually learns some of the skills they use to survive in a landscape where rising temperatures are about to bring their old ways to an end. Throughout her months in the past, she's confronted by two major problems--most pressingly, how to get home, if she ever can, and secondly, how to cope with the belief of many of her new community that she possesses powerful good luck.

I don't recall that my archaeologist hackles were raised at any point (although I am by no means a Clovis expert). I felt that the author did a perfectly reasonable job with the details of the nomadic life led by these "Clovis people." She focuses on the physical world (hunting logistics, tool making, plants gathered), steering clear, for the most part, of efforts to portray their world view--which would, indeed, have been difficult to write without being possibly offensive, or overly imaginative/romanticizing. But the down side of this is that though there are some glimpses that these people have a rich culture of spirit, it doesn't quite come through enough to make them completely three-dimensional. Griggin also, again wisely, avoids discussion of where these people came from within the story itself -- its a controversial topic, as she mentiones in the author's note at the end.

On the other hand, the particular individuals she meets came across as very real, three-dimensional people, who loved, and fought, and had back-story that effected how they reacted to Esther. They weren't just cardboard cutouts of stereotypes. So that was good.

Esther is no Ayla--she doesn't revolutionize Paleoindian technology with her knowledge. She doesn't even seem to think about this, which I found a bit hard to believe (I would be so tempted to invent the wheel, or something....) She does, however, get into some hot water when she reveals that she knows the Ice Age megafauna will go extinct, which is obviously upsetting news to those who depend on them.*

But with a certain suspension of disbelief, it was a perfectly serviceable portrayal of a time and place that seems as strange to many of us modern folk as of course it does to Esther. It held my interest just fine, and although it didn't delight me in any deep way, I don't begrudge at all the time spent reading it.

*when I first heard as a child that there were giant beavers kicking around America, I pictured behemoths 20 feet tall. I later saw one in a museum, and they are more like "really big, but not giant, beavers," about the size of black bears. Ditto giant armadillos. Sigh.


  1. Not giant armadillos, but there were glyptodonts.


  2. true, the glyptodonts were substantial. I vaguely feel that giant armadillos were mentioned in the book (we never had them up our way) and the author meant glyptodonts.


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