Date of this Version
American Indian Culture and Research Journal (1990) 14(2): 128-133.
Wills's book provides archeologists with an innovative account of why and how past hunter-gatherers initially expanded their food-getting activities to include the cultivation of domesticated crops. His study makes use of a variety of subjects including r- and K-selection, density-dependent responses, risk minimization, the forager-collector continuum, maize phenology, Holocene environments, technological change, stylistic variation, social boundaries, and mating networks. Wills also offers new information and reassessments of the archeological record at Bat, Tularosa, Cordova, and Cienega Creek caves in the Mogollon highlands. He approaches the archeological literature for the American Southwest with healthy skepticism. And he challenges many basic assumptions and archeological "facts," including the reliability of radiocarbon dates for Southwestern and Mexican maize, cultural-historical classifications, and the severity of altithermal climate. His explanation for early use of domesticated plants in the Mogollon highlands is an interesting departure from other models. Wills's book offers ideas, insights, and questions that seriously challenge archeologists to reconsider contemporary thinking about prehistoric agriculture in the American Southwest.