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Native American agriculture reading list

Cultivated landscapes of native North AmericaI've focused on the southeast and midwest in this lunchtime series because I'm interested in what's going on in my own neck of the woods.  If you want to learn more about your part of the country, you might like to check out some of the texts I used in my research.  Here's an annotated bibliography to get you started.

Doolittle, W.E.  2002.  Cultivated Landscapes of Native North America.  Oxford University Press.

This book answered my questions about whether native North Americans impacted the wild landscape or just grew their crops in gardens and fields.  You can read most of the book using the preview feature on Amazon.


Heilman, J.M., M.C. Lileas, and C.A. Turnbow.  1988.  A History of 17 Years of Excavation and Reconstruction --- A Chronicle of 12th Century Human Values and the Built Environment.  Volume 1.  The Dayton Museum of Natural History, Dayton, OH.

This is the book that got me started on my journey.  It's a summary of research at the Sunwatch site in Dayton written by the scientists, but is remarkably easy to read.  If you live nearby, you should pick up a copy from the site's gift shop.


Imperfect BalanceLentz, D.L.  2000.  Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Precolumbian Americas.  Columbia University Press.

This book seems like it might be the layman's summary of the whole subject and might be the place for you to start, but I'd already read the scientific versions so I just quickly skimmed relevant sections. Read it through Amazon's preview feature.


Scarry, C.M.  1993.  Foraging and Farming in the Eastern Woodlands.  University Press of Florida.

I get the impression that paleoethnobotanists are just an easy to read bunch.  This book is a series of papers summarizing information presented at a conference in 1988, but it's very untechnical.  The book has summaries of what people grew and ate throughout the Archaic and Woodland periods.  Although Google Books blanks out a page here and there to try to get you to buy the book, you can read nearly the entire text on Google.


And, of course, if you're completely new to the topic and want to learn a bit more about what North and South America looked like before European contact, I highly recommend the mainstream books 1491, Indian Givers, and Guns, Germs, and Steel.  What books do you think should go on the reading list of those interested in Native American agriculture?

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This post is part of our Native American Paleoethnobotany lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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I'm very interested in this topic, but thanks to you I don't have anything on my reading list in this area. Your geographic location is close enough to ours that I think I can just adopt your findings. So my reading list is simple: Walden Effect!
Comment by Lisa Fri Jan 28 16:35:48 2011
I'm always happy to hear that my obsessive reading helps someone other than me! I mostly figure I post my lunchtime series as a way of consolidating the information in my head (and preserving the most important points to look back on later), so I'm thrilled to hear that others get something out of them.
Comment by anna Fri Jan 28 17:06:40 2011
Thanks Anna so much for this information! It is exactly what I was looking for and it will lead me in the direction I find absolutely fascinating!
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