Prehistoric America

Prehistoric America

Prehistoric America

Prehistoric America

Excerpt

Students tend to look upon assigned research papers as distasteful chores, yet the requirement of responding to a set of arbitrary limitations can be a creative challenge. This book originated as an assignment from Unesco to summarize the archeology of the New World in 100 manuscript pages. Since more than this could easily be written on a single well-known culture or one small region, it was obvious that only a relatively high level of generalization would permit compressing the whole sweep of American prehistory into so short a space. The solution was provided by the culture area concept, adapted so as to take maximum advantage of environmental similarities between North and South America.

Being forced to look at the archeological remains in this ecological perspective brought to my attention many fascinating resemblances that I had previously overlooked. In fact, the cultural parallels between widely separated but environmentally similar regions are often extraordinary, as many of the figures clearly show. Since there is a tendency among anthropologists to discount the significance of such comparisons on the basis that they ignore a large mass of less similar data, it is worth noting that evidence cannot be selected unless it exists. Too often, cultural parallels between distant regions have been taken for granted rather than recognized as phenomena that need to be explained. It is . . .

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