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Piperno Book cover-Origins of Agriculture in Lowland Neotropics

The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics
Dolores R. Piperno and Deborah M. Pearsall
Published: MAR-1998
ISBN 10: 0-12-557180-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-12-557180-7

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
* Argues 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
* 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
* Appeals to anyone concerned with Latin American prehistory
* Covers the development of slash and burn (or swidden) cultivation
* Focuses on low and lower mid-elevations—Emerald Group Publishing, 1998 - Technology & Engineering - 400 pages

In Chapter 2, Piperno and Pearsall present the finest explanatory overview to date of the heterogeneity of Neotropical lowland ecosystems and the implications of this variation for human adaptations...The authors present a truly multidisciplinary analysis of the origins of agriculture in the lowland Neotropics…Moreover, whether discussing alternative explanations to their own propositions or considering the strenghts and weaknesses of supporting data, they do so in an admirably objective and fair-handed manner that enables readers to draw their own conclusions. This book represents a very significant and timely contribution to the study of an intriguing subject and proposes a theoretical orientation that appears to have a great deal to offer.—Editorial Review
(Volume 102, No. 1, March 2000) - American Anthropologist

    Chapter 1
    Background of Tropical Agricultural Origins

    Chapter 2
    The Neotropical Ecosystem in the Present and the Past

    Chapter 3
    The Phytogeography of Neotropical Crops and Their Putative Wild Ancestors

    Chapter 4
    The Evolution of Foraging and Food Production

    Chapter 5
    The Development of Agriculture

    Chapter 6
    The Relationship of Neotropical Food Production to Food Production from Other Areas of the World


    Index of Common and Scientific Plant Names

    Subject Index

For ordering information, contact: (electronic version)
Academic Press, Science Direct
(An imprint of Elsevier)

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