THE LIFE OF A FOSSIL HUNTER by Charles H. Sternberg (Indiana University Press: $12.95, illustrated)

Charles Sternberg was an enthusiastic participant in the "heroic" era of American paleontology, when rival scientists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh vied to collect and name the most specimens. His descriptions of excavating fossils in the barren regions of Texas, Oregon and the Midwestern constitute a firsthand picture of America immediately after the Civil War: Indians still represented a threat to whites in remote areas, the U.S. Cavalry was a reassuring presence, and buffalo, antelope and wild turkey were so plentiful that a bone hunter could easily supplement his ration of bacon, beans and bicuits. Sternberg's love for his work infuses his formal, old-fashioned prose.

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