Have you ever stopped to think about the history just below your feet? Or, who called the patch of earth you’re standing on home a millennia ago? Buried in the soil directly below you could lie clues to a period of time drastically different than our own. A time long before the first European settlers ever set foot in the Blue Ridge Mountains and when Native Americans were the sole inhabitants of what is now known as the High Country. A new book written by Thomas Whyte, a professor of Anthropology at Appalachian State University, looks answer questions about what Northwestern North Carolina was like during that time period and how the Native American’s who called the region home lived.
Using decades worth of regional archaeological research, Whyte’s new book “Boone Before Boone: The Archaeological Record of Northwestern North Carolina Through 1769” (McFarland),offers readers a glimpse into the ancient world, beginning in the Paleoindian period during the Ice age, and ending in 1769 with the arrival of Daniel Boone. According to Whyte, the purpose of the book is to shed light on a piece of local history that is often overlooked, as well as to provide insight into world archaeology.
“Since the late Ice age, there have been humans living in these mountains and they’re the original residents of this place. We need to recognize that. I mean, how many books and articles must there be on Daniel Boone,” said Whyte. “There’s so many interesting questions about the people who lived in this area before Europeans came and it’s remarkable how little people know about that.”
According to Whyte, a majority of the work produced by archaeologists tends to serve other archaeologists, however, “Boone Before Boone” was written with intentions to bridge the gap between academia and the casual reader with the book written for the public, rather than scholars.
“I’ve done so much archaeology and so have my colleagues and we’ve accumulated so much information, but typically it winds up in journal articles for the profession, or technical reports that only the professionals read. Very little of it gets out to the public,” said Whyte. “This was a way of summarizing a lot of work that has been done here in the mountains and a lot of what we’ve learned in the past.”
Aside from providing insight into the region’s history prior to European settlement, Whyte’s hope for the book is that it will dispel myths about his profession and make readers aware that archaeological research occurs regularly in their own backyard. Also, Whyte hopes the book will foster an appreciation for the High Country’s ancient archaeological sites, which according to him, are being lost daily to activities such as construction, timbering and farming.
“I want people to know that archeologists don’t just work in Egypt or Mesopotamia. We’re actively trying to answer questions about humans anywhere. It’s all interesting, there are fascinating mysteries to be solved in or own backyards,” said Whyte. “I try to inform the reader about the importance of valuing the archaeological evidence from the past. Because archaeological sites are being destroyed on a daily basis, here in Watauga County” said Whyte. “It’s the same as tearing out pages from a very rare historical document and just burning them. They’re gone forever. So preservation of that evidence is another goal of mine by writing this book.”
“Boone Before Boone: The Archaeological Record of Northwestern North Carolina Through 1769” covers over 14,000 years of regional history and is currently listed as part of McFarland Publishing’s “Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies.”
To learn more about the Whyte’s new book, “Boone Before Boone,” visit https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/boone-before-boone/. You can also purchase Whyte’s new book on Amazon by visiting https://www.amazon.com/Boone-Before-Archaeological-Northwestern-Contributions/dp/1476683425.