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NONFICTION

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BEHIND THE BEARS EARS: 
Exploring the Cultural and Natural Histories of a Sacred Landscape

by R.E. BURRILLO

"Fierce yet playful, admonishing and ambitious, Behind the Bears Ears is as vast and consuming as the landscape itself.”

—AMY IRVINE, author of Air Mail and Desert Cabal

Cover photo by Jonathan T. Bailey 

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For more than 12,000 years, the wondrous landscape of southeastern Utah has defined the histories, cultures, and lives of everyone who calls it home. Archaeologist and conservationist R. E. Burrillo takes readers on a journey of discovery through the stories and controversies that make this place so unique, from traces of its earliest inhabitants through its role in shaping the study of Southwest archaeology itself—and into the modern battle over its protection.   

October 2020 | Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-30-0 | 19.95 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

R. E. BURRILLO is an archaeologist and conservation advocate. His book Behind the Bears Ears: Exploring the Cultural and Natural Histories of a Sacred Landscape won the ForeWord INDIES Editor's Choice Prize in Nonfiction. Burrillo's writing has appeared in Archaeology Southwest, Colorado Plateau Advocate, the Salt Lake Tribune, and elsewhere. He currently lives in southern Arizona, where he works as a project manager for PaleoWest.

PRAISE FOR BEHIND THE BEARS EARS

“Solid history and archaeology combines with an understated call to preserve Bears Ears—all of it, not just a sliver.”
—KIRKUS REVIEWS

"An epic story of endurance that reaches back into prehistory and casts a line into the future with the hope that all people can come to know and love this sacred land, and work together to preserve it."
—FOREWORD REVIEWS

 

“Burrillo describes the area's physical geography and cultural history as well as its meaning and value to those who have been shaped and impacted by the land. For Burrillo, this includes a heartfelt identification with the area's healing power and force of place. This splendidly crafted book will appeal to regional specialists and general readers.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL

 

“R. E. Burrillo conjures empathy for ethnography, transforms soil strata into living stories. Fierce yet playful, admonishing and ambitious, Behind the Bears Ears is as vast and consuming as the landscape itself.”
—AMY IRVINE, author of Air Mail and Desert Cabal

“R. E. Burrillo is an archaeologist who writes nothing like an archaeologist—not stuffy and technical but conversational and enquiring. Drawing from his explorations and fieldwork of the region’s plateaus and canyons, his love and hope for Bears Ears binds these pages with honest glue.”
—GREG CHILD, author of Over the Edge

 

“An engagingly personal, well-informed, wide-ranging account of Bears Ears and its archaeology, its ongoing importance to Native peoples, and its future.”
—STEPHEN H. LEKSON, author of A Study of Southwestern Archaeology    

 

Behind the Bears Ears conveys a deep respect for the place and the people who have lived closest to it. A fine primer for newcomers to the region and an entertaining refresher course for those already embedded in the landscape.”
—SCOTT THYBONY, author of The Disappearances 

"Burrillo makes a commanding debut in a consistently fascinating distillation of the unrivaled mosaic nature of the land’s history."
—THE UTAH REVIEW

ALSO BY THE AUTHOR

THE BACKWOODS OF EVERYWHERE: Words from a Wandering Local

After an upstate New York childhood and a bartending stint in New Orleans’ French Quarter, seasonal resort work led R. E. Burrillo to the desert Southwest, whose redrock landscapes were a source of stability through mental and physical illness. In The Backwoods of Everywhere, archaeologist Burrillo excavates his past, examining Indigenous and tourist cultures, the complexities of American archaeology, and what it means to be a local. In the vein of Bill Bryson, Tim Cahill, and Ellen Meloy, Burrillo’s is a fresh voice in humor-spiked nature writing and cultural commentary.

“Mixing fighting words and wonder, Burrillo extends the boundaries of ‘backwoods’ to back yards, city riots, and the depth of the Grand Canyon. He reminds us to be vexed, amused, and serious about the mark we put on the world.”

 —CRAIG CHILDS, author of Tracing Time and Virga & Bone

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