The Serpent Symbol, and the Worship of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature in America
Publisher: George P Putnam
Place: New York
xvi++254 pages with black and white engravings and diagrams Octavo (9 1/4" x 6") bound in half leather over marbled covers and end papers. American Archaeological Research paper 1. First edition.
Ephraim Squier stands as one of the most important figures in the history of American archaeology and anthropology in the era before both those fields, along with the rest of American intellectual life, became professionalized. In the history of anthropology, Squier has been seen as a precursor rather than a predecessor, a footnote rather than a founder. Squier received national attention in 1848 with the publication of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, the first volume in the Smithsonian's Contributions to Knowledge. That book resulted from a three-year collaboration with Edwin Davis exploring, surveying, and excavating the Indian mounds that so fascinated Americans through the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. Ancient Monuments remains Squier's best-known book, but no sooner had it come out than Squier moved his investigations from Ohio to New York. There he worked to some extent with Lewis Henry Morgan, and the result was his Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, published in 1851. By the time this book came out, Squier had accepted a diplomatic posting to Nicaragua and wrote Nicaragua: Its People, Scenery, Monuments and the Proposed Inter-Oceanic Canal, which first appeared in 1852 and was revised and excerpted several times. In the midst of all this, Squier found time to collect his ideas about "the origin and development of religious ideas and symbols" (187) and publish them as The Serpent Symbol and the Reciprocal Principles of Nature in 1851. By 1853 he was back in Central America; this trip yielded three more publications, in 1853, 1860, and 1861. Between 1863 and 1865, Squier served as U.S. claims commissioner in Peru. In 1877, as the last major publication of his remarkable career, he issued Peru: Incidents of Travel and Exploration in the Land of the Incas. Even this cursory listing of Squier's major works makes clear that he was thinking about Native America in hemispheric rather than strictly nationalistic terms. He wanted always to synthesize, compare, and draw connections between the mounds of Ohio, the earthworks of New York, the constructions of Central America, and the civilizations of Peru. Whether or not his conclusions still pass anthropological muster, he should be given credit as being among the first to think so broadly. By any measure, his was an extraordinarily productive career.
Embossed stamps to title and full page plates, extremities lightly rubbed, points rubbed, gilt bright a very good copy.
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