Prehistoric America: An Ecological Perspective

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Nonspecific Binding
  • Copyright: 2009-11-15
  • Publisher: Routledge
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During the past 30 years, the relationship between humansand the environment has changed more drasticallythan during any previous period in human history. Localsustainable exploitation of natural resources has beenoverridden by global interests indifferent to the detrimentalimpact of their activities on local environments andtheir inhabitants. Increasingly efficient technology hasreduced the need for human labor, but improved medicaltreatment favors reproduction and survival, creating agrowing imbalance between population density and foodsupply. Rapid transportation is introducing alien speciesto distant terrestrial and aquatic environments, wherethey displace critical elements in the local food chain.This succinct and profusely illustrated volume appliesevolutionary and cultural theory to the interpretationof prehistoric cultural development in the westernhemisphere. After reviewing cultural development inMesoamerica and the central Andes, Meggers examinesadaptation in North and South American regions withsimilar environments to evaluate the influence of adaptiveconstraints on cultural content.What made the human species dominant on the planetis the substitution of cultural behavior for biological behavior.Prehistoric Americans applied this ability to developsustainable relationships with their environments. Manysucceeded and others did not. Paleoclimatic reconstructionscan be compared with archeological sequences andethnographic descriptions to identify cultural behaviorresponsible for the difference. Comparison of the responsesof Amazonians and Mayans to episodes of severe droughtprovides useful insights into what we are doing wrong.

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