Title

What Have We Missed by Perpetuating the Pristine Myth?

Presenter Information

Winifred Alberg

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 140

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

In The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492, William Denevan focuses on the issues, misconceptions and residual problems associated with the “Pristine Myth” which is a term he uses to describe the common perception by certain scholars that the Indians in the New World had not altered their natural landscape. This perpetrated the idea that after 1492, the colonists and settlers who came to the New World dramatically and detrimentally altered the former “Pristine” landscape the Indians inhabited. Indians are nature and thus their alteration of the landscape is natural, albeit a modification nonetheless. Contemporary researchers have examined the Pristine Myth and continually demonstrate that the Pristine Myth is not supported in the Archaeological Record; promulgating the idea of the Pristine Myth masks the true history of human occupation and the subsequent effects of landscape alteration and environment. Native populations were efficient resource managers who tailored their practices to the landscape they were using and implemented techniques to protect and sustainably exploit their resources as ‘ancient conservationists’. The Pristine Myth is a state of mind, not reality. It is my argument that the long held biases in the study of prehistory have misguided research for much too long and that as researchers we have to ask ourselves, what have we missed in the Record by perpetuating the Pristine Myth?

Faculty Mentor(s)

Jennifer Lipton

Additional Mentoring Department

Geography

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May 17th, 4:50 PM May 17th, 5:10 PM

What Have We Missed by Perpetuating the Pristine Myth?

SURC 140

In The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492, William Denevan focuses on the issues, misconceptions and residual problems associated with the “Pristine Myth” which is a term he uses to describe the common perception by certain scholars that the Indians in the New World had not altered their natural landscape. This perpetrated the idea that after 1492, the colonists and settlers who came to the New World dramatically and detrimentally altered the former “Pristine” landscape the Indians inhabited. Indians are nature and thus their alteration of the landscape is natural, albeit a modification nonetheless. Contemporary researchers have examined the Pristine Myth and continually demonstrate that the Pristine Myth is not supported in the Archaeological Record; promulgating the idea of the Pristine Myth masks the true history of human occupation and the subsequent effects of landscape alteration and environment. Native populations were efficient resource managers who tailored their practices to the landscape they were using and implemented techniques to protect and sustainably exploit their resources as ‘ancient conservationists’. The Pristine Myth is a state of mind, not reality. It is my argument that the long held biases in the study of prehistory have misguided research for much too long and that as researchers we have to ask ourselves, what have we missed in the Record by perpetuating the Pristine Myth?