Human Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 395–406 | Cite as

Crop Diversity on Anthropogenic Dark Earths in Central Amazonia

  • James Angus Fraser
  • André B. Junqueira
  • Nicholas C. Kawa
  • Claide P. Moraes
  • Charles R. Clement


A recent archaeological survey demonstrates that one of the most durable of all forms of pre-Columbian landscape transformation, Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE; soils formed by pre-Columbian settlement), are widespread along the course of the Madeira River, Central Amazonia, Brazil. We hypothesize that processes of crop cultivation and management by human populations today in landscapes that were intensively transformed during the pre-Columbian period will diverge from those in environments where human agency has not left such a heavy footprint. In order to test this hypothesis, we compare bitter manioc fields, homegardens and secondary forests on ADE with those on non-anthropogenic soils along the lower and middle Madeira River. We demonstrate that crop species and landrace populations diverge on anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic soils as a result of the interaction between human selection and management, soil physical and chemical properties, and plant responses over time. Hence, crop species selection and abundance and therefore agrobiodiversity is contingent on anthropogenic soils in Central Amazonia.


Madeira river Botanical inventory Historical ecology Domesticated landscapes Crop domestication 



JAF thanks the Leverhulme Trust for funding (Grant F/00 230/W) and the CNPq (Brazilian National Research Council) for granting research permission (EXC 022/05). ABJ thanks the CNPQ for his graduate scholarship, IIEB (The Brazilian International Institute of Education) and The Moore Foundation who provided financial support, and IdeaWild who provided equipment for his fieldwork. NCK thanks the University of Florida’s Latin American Studies Program for a Charles Wagley Research Fellowship and the CNPq for granting research permission (EXC 007-07-C). CPM thanks FAPESP (The State of São Paulo Research Foundation), for doctoral funding, Eduardo Góes Neves, and the CAP (Central Amazon Project). CRC thanks the CNPq for a research scholarship. We all thank William Denevan for commenting on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Angus Fraser
    • 1
  • André B. Junqueira
    • 2
  • Nicholas C. Kawa
    • 3
  • Claide P. Moraes
    • 4
  • Charles R. Clement
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, School of Global StudiesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.Department of Agronomic SciencesInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da AmazôniaManausBrazil
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Museum of Archaeology and EthnologyUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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