The Handbook of South American Archaeology

pp 157-183

Amazonia: The Historical Ecology of a Domesticated Landscape

  • Clark L. EricksonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

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In this chapter, I introduce historical ecology, new ecology, landscape, and domestication of landscape as key concepts for understanding complex, long term interactions between humans and the environment. I show how historical ecology challenges traditional assumptions and myths about Amazonia. Later, I survey examples of human activities that have created, transformed, and managed environments and their association to biodiversity.

In this chapter, I use the term Amazonia to refer to the Amazon basin (the entire region drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries) and more loosely to refer to the tropical lowlands of South America or Greater Amazonia (cf. Lathrap 1970; Denevan 2001). As an anthropogenic environment and interacting culture area of considerable time depth, Amazonia is tied to the neotropics or tropical regions of the Americas.