Denevan, William. 1992. The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers., 83: 369-385.

1. When was the "pristine myth" invented?  By whom? 

2. What is Denevan's hypothesis?

3. According to Denevan, how large was the pre-Columbian population of Central America and the Caribbean?  What about Mexico?

4. Describe the scale and rate of mortality that resulted from the arrival of Europeans.

5. Compare Latin America's population in 1750 with Denevan's 1492 estimate.  How might this comparison partially explain the invention of the "pristine myth"? 

6. Skip the "Eastern Forests" section.
7. What was the most important tool for vegetation modification?

8. How did people convert forest to long-term savanna in Central America?  Why would they do that?

9. How does the widespread occurrence of charcoal in the Amazon, or the rainforests of Central America, suggest that humans modified forests?  Think about the tropical rain forest climate.

10. What does anthropogenic mean? 

11. What are "swidden burns"?  How did they contribute to modifying the forests?

12. What does Denevan mean when he says that ~40% of Latin American forest is "secondary"?

 13. What is a "swidden fallow"? How does it make a forest anthropogenic?

14. What were "montones"?  How were they evidence of massive landscape change? 

15. What caused the "severe landscape degradation" in central Mexico?  Indigenous farmers or Spanish cattle? 

16. How did the environment recover by the late 1700s?

17. How did coastal Panama's vegetation change from 1502 to 1681?  What caused the change?

18. How did the environment of Yucatan change from 800 to the 1500s?  What caused the change?

19. What does the first sentence on p. 380 mean?

20. Did you learn any of this perspective on indigenous population and environmental modification in your K-12 classes?  Why or why not?