Hard Times in the Younger Dryas

This time last year, most of North America was buried in an unusual cold period. The jet stream had hemorrhaged in early January and the Polar Vortex that usually sits atop the hemisphere like a halo came pouring down. Known as the 2014 North American Cold Wave, temperatures plummeted, particularly in the Northeast and Upper […]

Gender in the Paleolithic

Camped with six adults and five children on the south-central coast of Alaska, I was doing a little writing experiment. I had been following possible Paleolithic routes, taking off with adventurers across glaciers and mountains to get a sense of living and traveling in the same landscapes people faced tens of thousands of years ago. […]

Holiday Redux: The Ceremonial Stone

LWON is celebrating the holidays by re-running some of our favorite posts. This post originally appeared in slightly different form in July 2014. Sarah dipped her fingers in a red mineral paint and lifted them to her face. She put streaks above her cheekbones and up her chin, her design standing out against a backdrop […]

Seeing Mammoths

Seeing a mammoth is not the same as looking over a zoo wall at a modern elephant, or even standing next to a live, gray, wrinkled wall of flesh with scant, coarse hairs. Watching the flexible, prehensile reach of an elephant’s trunk and the slow cross-wise chewing of hay, I’ve found it hard to see […]

Those Who Emerged from the Earth

As we know by now, science is not the last word on anything. It is one story among many, and it alone doesn’t satisfy every inquiry. Over the last few years I’ve been visiting landscapes associated with the Bering land bridge in western Alaska. Most archaeologists believe this is where the first people crossed from […]

On My Way to Burning Man

I’ve just returned from Burning Man, a Mad Max bacchanalia in the desert of western Nevada. I went to see what my civilization was up to, what fiery pinnacle we’ve invented. I also wanted to see it in context, which is why my time at this 69,000-person conflagration was only part of a larger journey. […]

To America by Boat, Sans Columbus

  Last week, 12 Siberian Yup’ik men motored into the Bering Sea with two aluminum skiffs to visit relatives on the US side of the Bering Strait. Their journey retraced a route that has been used since the Ice Age, one of the most important lines of travel in human history. Leaving the Russian coast, […]