Synthetic Contributions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Insights about the intellectual origins, base arguments, and impacts of three of William Denevan’s most innovative works are addressed: The Pristine Myth, A Bluff Model, and Adaptation. Grounded in the “Berkeley School” traditions of research questions as they morphed into cultural ecology, The Pristine Myth challenged various claims bubbling up during the quincentenary of the Columbian encounter that marked the environments of the Americas as relatively untouched by Native Americans. Despite various challenges to Denevan’s “unpristine” claims, The Pristine Myth has stood the test of time and the advancement of the evidence relevant to the argument. A Bluff Model sought to rectify various evidence and arguments, including those previously proposed by Denevan, about pre-European populations in the Amazon. In this reconfiguration, the relatively large size of the population is recognized, while the location of its settlements and lands used for cultivation is changed in an attempt to reconcile various debates among archaeologists. Finally, Adaptation, perhaps Denevan’s most conceptual work, responds to the challenges that the Berkeley traditions were sparse in terms of the explanations of the built environments addressed. Adaptation borrowed concepts embedded with the Chicago School of risk-hazards, attempting the merge the two major North American schools-Berkeley and Chicago-focused on human-environment relationships and sought to move cultural ecological research into a broader, theoretical framing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationForest, Field, and Fallow
Subtitle of host publicationSelections by William M. Denevan
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9783030424800
ISBN (Print)9783030424794
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Amazonia
  • Columbian encounter
  • Pre-European landscapes and population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Synthetic Contributions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this