Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest

by Carl Hoffman


$14.39 $15.99 Save 10% Current price is $14.39, Original price is $15.99. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, October 17


On November 21, 1961, Michael C. Rockefeller, the twenty-three-year-old son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller, vanished off the coast of southwest New Guinea when his boat capsized. He was on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art, and his partner—who stayed with the boat and was later rescued—shared Michael's final words as he swam for help: "I think I can make it."

Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Michael was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd made it to shore, where he was then killed and eaten by the local Asmat—a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, headhunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family vehemently denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. But doubts lingered and sensational stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. Now, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman reveals startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.

Retracing Michael's steps, Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of former headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered hundreds of pages of never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publicly for the first time in fifty years.

Savage Harvest is at once a mesmerizing whodunit and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062116161
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 371,364
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Carl Hoffman is the author of the New York Times bestseller Savage Harvest, hailed as a “masterpiece” by Outside and named a New York Times editors’ choice and one of the Washington Post’s 50 notable works of nonfiction for 2014, as well as The Lunatic Express. He is a former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Wired, and has traveled on assignment to eighty countries.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

A Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just completed this book in hardback. It was a fascinating read on many levels: the story of a murder, a tale of a unique culture, the view of primitive art, and an understanding of excepting other cultures and other people in the world - excepting people as equals. Another great book on the NOOK is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Both books deserve A+++++
McFriendly More than 1 year ago
Hoffman's interesting book does more than solve one of the 20th Century's most enduring mysteries, he lays out the reasons WHY it happened. Within minutes of completing a 10 mile swim after his boat flipped over, the hapless Michael Rockefeller was speared, beheaded and, yup, eaten by Papua New Guinea natives. Then the book discusses WHY - colonialism, tribal pride, culture clash and Rockefeller's singleminded quest for "primitive art" all came together in this tragedy. Overall the book is entertaining and highly informative although the author does go into a bit too much detail about various Dutch administrators and functionaries so one can get lost - but it's a minor quibble. This is one of those curious twists of fate - Rockefeller could have gone on to huge success in any field he wanted, but instead wound up a victim of horrific violence in one of the last untamed areas on earth. If you've ever been curious about this 50 year-old mystery, this is the book for you! Maybe Mr. Hoffman can find out what happened to Amelia Earhart next?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember when Michael Rockefeller disappeared & all the news coverage. There were conflicting stories, but no firm answers. The Dutch claimed that cannibalism had stopped - others saying that it hadn't. This book goes into depth about the Asmat people & culture. Rockefeller was very young & it seems that he did not appreciate fully the religious significance of the items he was trying to buy for his father's museum. He may not have known of the political tension between the Dutch colonialists & the Asmat. Carl Hoffman makes all this clear and even though he never finds Micheal's body, he does leave you with a strong idea of what happened & why. Be warned though, the book opens with a gruesome description of the cannibalistic ritual. And it was a religious ritual. Then he proceeds to investigate the mystery. And to me, it was fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...about an unpalatable truth. When one goes to strange places to collect art and does not take the time to really get to know the people, one may find oneself invited to dinner. This is a delicious book with lots of good investigation in it. A must read.
Marla_Warren More than 1 year ago
Excellent research and writing--Hoffman makes a very strong case for his conclusion about Rockefeller's fate. Not just a book about a rich person who went exploring--Savage Harvest offers insight into cultural differences and how people perceive and react to them. What is interesting is how Hoffman, instead of just going to the area where Rockefeller disappeared, chose to comb through the Dutch Colonial archives. That's where he found the info to set him on the right path.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to get through. The author inserts his own adventure often and that takes away from the story of Michael Rockefeller and what happened to him. Wouldn't recommend this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting and amazing to learn of the traditions of the Asmat tribe. Revenge was their way. Sadly, it was Michael who ended up giving his life for revenge - rather than being helped by those he thought would give him aid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
extremely slow, finally finished it.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Savage Harvest answers no questions but provides great insight into the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in Indonesia in the 1960's. The book jumps back and forth between present day and 1961 in Asmat, the region where Michael disappeared. It's a fascinating story of a man with too much privilege who collects primitive art and ventures into an area where the taking of art has a consequence. We may never know what really happened to Mr. Rockefeller but Mr. Hoffman provides compelling evidence to suspect the tales of murder and cannibalism might be true. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
richard11 More than 1 year ago
A good read, lots of history. A very good insight a totally different way of life. Some times it seems a little tedious.
kyohin More than 1 year ago
To say this book is riveting would be putting it mildly. I remember all the publicity about Michael's disappearance and was glad to be able to read a well-researched book on the subject. I would recommend this book even for those who might feel squeamish about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cant believe the author takes such an exciting topic and makes it read like a telephone book save your money zero stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is uikly that michael rockefeller could haVE OIT It is unlikely that michael rockefeller woiuld survive a ten mile ocean swim with his glasses on, enjoyed reading about life among the amats and their culture, be