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Prehistoric America / Edition 3

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Overview

During the past 30 years, the relationship between humans and the environment has changed more drastically than during any previous period in human history. Local sustainable exploitation of natural resources has been overridden by global interests indifferent to the detrimental impact of their activities on local environments and their inhabitants. Increasingly efficient technology has reduced the need for human labor, but improved medical treatment favors reproduction and survival, creating a growing imbalance between population density and food supply. Rapid transportation is introducing alien species to distant terrestrial and aquatic environments, where they displace critical elements in the local food chain.

This succinct and profusely illustrated volume applies evolutionary and cultural theory to the interpretation of prehistoric cultural development in the western hemisphere. After reviewing cultural development in Mesoamerica and the central Andes, Meggers examines adaptation in North and South American regions with similar environments to evaluate the influence of adaptive constraints on cultural content.

What made the human species dominant on the planet is the substitution of cultural behavior for biological behavior. Prehistoric Americans applied this ability to develop sustainable relationships with their environments. Many succeeded and others did not. Paleoclimatic reconstructions can be compared with archeological sequences and ethnographic descriptions to identify cultural behavior responsible for the difference. Comparison of the responses of Amazonians and Mayans to episodes of severe drought provides useful insights into what we are doing wrong.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This is a fine essay on preconquest America… [I]t is clearly and concisely written.”

—Martin W. Boksenbaum, Man

Prehistoric America adds to the surprisingly small number of modern paperback texts treating New World culture history. The author’s aim is to provide a coherent synthesis from an ecological perspective, emphasizing the similarities that have arisen in a really separate but environmentally comparable regions of the two American continents. This is accomplished in a compact, easily read, and well-illustrated format accompanied by a modest selection of additional reading, perfectly adequate for instructional purposes. The simple and jargon-free language recommends its use in a wide variety of instructional contexts.”

—Robert C. Dunnell, American Anthropologist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780202363363
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Edition description: Expanded
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 246
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Betty J. Meggers was a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution since 1951. She conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Her publications included archeological monographs, edited volumes, general books on Amazonia and Ecuador, and over 200 articles on cultural ecology, cultural diffusion, pottery analysis, and transpacific contact. Her contributions have been recognized by six honorary doctorates from universities in Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador.

Betty J. Meggers was a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution since 1951. She conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Ecuador. Her publications included archeological monographs, edited volumes, general books on Amazonia and Ecuador, and over 200 articles on cultural ecology, cultural diffusion, pottery analysis, and transpacific contact. Her contributions have been recognized by six honorary doctorates from universities in Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador.

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION TO THE TRANSACTION EDITION

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

1 INTRODUCTION

2 SETTLING THE HEMISPHERE

3 CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN NUCLEAR AMERICA AND THE INTERMEDIATE AREA

4 ADAPTATION TO PERMISSIVE ENVIRONMENTS: THE FORESTS, THE DESERTS, AND THE PLAINS

5 ENVIRONMENTAL LIMITATION ON CULTURAL COMPLEXITY: THE PACIFIC COASTS, THE MARGINALS, AND THE ARCTIC

6 PROBLEMS AND SPECULATIONS

SELECTED REFERENCES

SOURCES OF ILLUSTRATIONS

CREDITS—INTRODUCTION

INDEX

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