The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics

The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics

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This first modern, full-bodied study of early horticulture and agriculture in the Neotropics unites new methods of recovering, identifying, and dating plant remains with a strong case for Optimal Foraging Strategy in this historical context. Drawing upon new approaches to tropical archaeology, Dolores Piperno and Deborah Pearsall argue that the tropical forest habitat is neither as hostile nor as benevolent for human occupation and plant experimentation as researchers have suggested. Among other conclusions, they demonstrate that tropical forest food production emerged concurrent with that in the Near East, that many tropical lowland societies practiced food production for at least 5,000 years before the emergence of village life, and that by 7000 B.P. cultivated plots had been extended into the forest, with the concomitant felling and killing of trees to admit sunlight to seed and tuber beds. Piperno and Pearsall have written a polished study of the low-lying regions between southwestern Mexico and the southern rim of the Amazon Basin. With modern techniques for recording and dating botanical remains from archaeological sites and genetic studies to determine the relationships between wild and domesticated plants, their research pulls together a huge mass of information produced by scholars in various disciplines and provides a strong theoretical framework in which to interpret it. Key features include: arguments that tropical forest food production emerged at approximately the same time as that in the Near East and is earlier than currently demonstrated in highland Mexico and Peru; and contends that the lowland tropics witnessed climatic and vegetational changes between 11,000 BP and 10,000 BP, no less profound than those experienced at higher latitudes. It appeals to anyone concerned with Latin American prehistory. It offers coverage of the development of slash and burn (or swidden) cultivation and, focuses on low and lower mid-elevations.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 10 pages
  • 159.8 x 236.5 x 22.9mm | 855.95g
  • Academic Press Inc
  • Bingley, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0125571801
  • 9780125571807

Review quote

"Their approach is deeply informed by evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology...the book is handsomely illustrated and features a complete scholarly apparatus."-HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW (2003) This volume and the two volumes Spectral Analysis and Time Series (Priestley, 1981), constitute an indispensable reference set for time series analysts as well as forecasters...For those economists who study time series, this book should serve as a basic introduction to essential material that has previously been scattered in various works. This book probably represents the most general analytical treatment of the ARMA type approach to non-linear analysis currently available...Priestley, as usual, is clear and succinct. The space he gives to sharing institutions (especially when relating these topics to optimal control problems) and to explanation in both time and frequency domains will be much appreciated by economists. There are detailed subject and author indices, and extensive use of bibliographical references. --MARJI LINES, University of Udine, Italy, in RICERCHE ECONOMICHE
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Table of contents

Background of Tropical Agricultural Origins. The Neotropical Ecosystem in the Present and the Past. The Phytogeography of Neotropical Crops and Their Putative wild Ancestors. The Evolution of Foraging and Food Production. From Small-Scale Horticulture to the Formative Period: The Development of Agriculture. The Relationship of Neotropical Food Production to Food Production from Other Areas of the World. References. Index of Common and Scientific Plant Names. Subject Index.
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About Dolores R. Piperno

Dolores Piperno works at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Her research includes the study of Late Pleistocene and Holocene environments and subsistence in tropical biomes through the analysis of micro-botanical remains (phytoliths and pollen), with emphasis on adaptations to the Neotropical forest. Deborah Pearsall, who received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois, is head of the American Archaeology Division's Paleoethnobotany Laboratory, which offers facilities for the processing and analysis of archaeological botanical remains and phytoliths and maintains comparative collections from North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Her current research is focused on the evolution of agricultural systems in Ecuador and on refining phytolith classification and processing procedures.
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