This publication is a photomechanic reprint of the 1885 English translated edition of the Marquis de Nadaillac’s classic summary of New World archaeology, titled Amérique préhistorique. As such, the reprint is primarily of value to the sophisticated Americanist interested in obtaining the best-organized and most critical appraisal of archaeological fact, theory, and fiction prevalent at that time. On the other hand, the lack of editorial comments, or any type of new information can only mislead the reader unfamiliar with the major changes in knowledge of New World prehistory that have occurred since then.
In the 1880s even the most highly trained and knowledgeable New World archaeologists were still handicapped by the lack of available precise dating techniques or rehable methods of field excavation or laboratory analysis, much less a large body of accumulated tested data. As a result most of their ideas today can be rejected as a pyramiding of conjecture. It is much to Nadaillac’s credit that he was fully aware of the then undeveloped status of archaeology as a science and thus attempted to separate fact from fancy by critically appraising the competency of his contemporaries and by thoroughly examining the published available literature. As a result he rejected many of the then popular theories of New World prehistory derived from Biblical interpretations; the ideas that the Old World civilizations were the source of those of the Americas, or that the Aztec culture was the fountainhead of those in the United States. It is of particular interest that Nadaillac and many of his contemporaries accepted the idea that the earliest inhabitants in the New World were contemporary with the extinct Pleistocene animals and that major climatic changes had occurred since then. Such a theory was subsequently rejected by most American archaeologists until its revival by the discovery of evidence of man associated with extinct fauna at Folsom, New Mexico in 1927.