The cultural parallels between widely separated but environmentally similar regions are often extraordinary, yet these parallels are discounted by anthropologists on the basis that they ignore a large mass of less similar data. Too often cultural parallels between distant regions have been taken for granted rather than recognized as phenomena that need to be explained. The thesis ofPrehistoric America is that they are neither fortuitous nor inconsequential, but an indication of the strength of environmental pressures on cultural development.
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.