Prehistoric Games of North American Indians is a collection of studies on the ancient games of indigenous peoples of North America. The authors, all archaeologists, muster evidence from artifacts, archaeological features, ethnography, ethnohistory, and to a lesser extent linguistics and folklore. Chapters sometimes center on a particular game (chunkey rolling disc game or patolli dice game, for example) or sometimes on a specific prehistoric society and its games (Aztec acrobatic games, games of the ancient Fremont people), and in one instance on the relationship between slavery and gaming in ancient indigenous North American societies.
In addition to the intrinsic value of pursuing the time depth of these games, some of which remain popular and culturally important today among Native Americans or within the broader society, the book is important for demonstrating a wide variety of research methods and for problematizing a heretofore overlooked research topic. Issues that emerge include the apparently ubiquitous but difficult to detect presence of gambling, the entanglement of indigenous games and the social logic of the societies in which they are embedded, the characteristics of women’s versus men’s games or those of in-group and out-group gaming, and the close correspondence between gaming and religion. The book’s coverage is broad and balanced in terms of geography, level of socio-cultural organization and gender.
Barbara Voorhies is research professor and professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Praise and Reviews:
“This is not a trivial subject. The book is focused on an important and often neglected aspect of human culture. It will stand out for its seriousness and its readability.”
—Dean R. Snow, professor emeritus of anthropology, Penn State University