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William E. Doolittle challenges established theories about native agriculture in North America, and puts forward new and innovative ideas. Looking at the evidence from a geographical standpoint, he focuses on fields, field features, and field systems. Emphasis is placed on modifications to the biophysical environment, specifically vegetation, soil, slope, and hydrology. There is a thorough exploration of horticulture, the methods used to maximise the advantages of adequate rainfall, and the techniques developed to compensate for deficits and surpluses in the supply of water. William E. Doolittle uses three types of data: reports on native practices compiled by the early European explorers; ethnographies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which provide ecological information; and archaeological studies, to examine the antiquity and origins of various agricultural activities. The resulting unique and fascinating account of the complexities of native Amreican food production is extensively illustrated with maps, drawings, and photographs. Native agriculture in the rest of the Americas is examined in Cultivated Landscapes of Native Amazonia and the Andes by William M. Denevan, and Cultivated Landscapes of Middle America on the Eve of Conquest by Thomas M. Whitmore and B. L. Turner II.
PART I INTRODUCTION; 1. Landscapes of cultivation; PART II HORTICULTURE; 2. Husbandry of small herbaceous plants; 3. Husbandry of large, and woody plants; 4. Gardens; PART III RAINFED SYSTEMS; 5. Plain fields in warm environments; 6. Ridged fields in cool environments; PART IV DRYLAND SYSTEMS; 7. Dry farming; 8. Terracing; 9. Water harvesting; 10. Canal irrigation; PART V WETLAND SYSTEMS; 11. Flood recession farming; 12. Draining and ridging; PART VI CONCLUSION; 13. Regional overview
"William E. Doolittle... has provided us with a most valuable and unique volume....Throughout one is struck by Doolittle's refreshing common sense and lack of pretension....absolutely a must for anyone concerned with the aboriginal crop production in North America. There's just nothing like it; so comprehensive in areal scope and at the same time focused on topic."--Historical Geography