Amazonia: The Historical Ecology of a Domesticated Landscape

  • Clark L. Erickson

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abizaid, Christian, 2005, An anthropogenic meander cutoff along the Ucayali River, Peruvian Amazon. The Geographical Review 95 (1): 122–135.Google Scholar
  2. Alvard, Michael S., 1995, Intraspecific prey choice by Amazonian hunters. Current Anthropology 36: 789–818.Google Scholar
  3. Ashmore, Wendy and A. Bernard Knapp (eds.), 1999, Archaeologies of Landscape: Contemporary Perspectives. Blackwell, Malden, MA.Google Scholar
  4. Balée, William A., 1989, The culture of Amazonian forests. Advances in Economic Botany 7: 1–21.Google Scholar
  5. Balée, William A. (ed.), 1998, Advances in Historical Ecology. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Balée, William A., 1994, Footprints of the Forest: Ka’apor Ethnobotany–the Historical Ecology of Plant Utilization by an Amazonian People. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Balée, William A., 2006, The research program of historical ecology. Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 1–24.Google Scholar
  8. Balée, William A. and Clark Erickson (eds.), 2006a, Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Balée, William A. and Clark Erickson, 2006b, Time, complexity, and historical ecology. In Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands, edited by William Balée and Clark Erickson, pp. 1–20. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  10. Balick, Michael and Robert Mendelsohn, 1992, Assessing the economic value of traditional medicines in the tropical rain forests. Conservation Biology 6 (1): 128–130.Google Scholar
  11. Beckerman, Stephen, 1979, The abundance of protein in Amazonia: a reply to Gross. American Anthropologist 81: 533–560.Google Scholar
  12. Blumler, Mark A., 1998, Biogeography of land-use impacts in the Near East. In Nature’s Geography: New Lessons for Conservation in Developing Countries, edited by Karl Zimmerer and Kenneth Young, pp. 215–236. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.Google Scholar
  13. Botkin, Daniel, 1990, Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Brookfield, Harold, 2001, Exploring Agrodiversity. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Carneiro, Robert, 1960, Slash and burn agriculture: a closer look at its implications for settlement patterns. In Men and Cultures, edited by Anthony Wallace, pp. 229–232. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  16. CEAM, 2003, Moxos: Una Limnocultura. Centre d’Estudis Amazonics, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  17. Chagnon, N. and R. Hames, 1979, Protein deficiency and tribal warfare in Amazonia: new data. Science 203: 910–913.Google Scholar
  18. Chapin, Mac, 2004, A challenge to conservationists. World Watch November-December pp. 17–31.Google Scholar
  19. Chernela, Janet, 1993, The Wanano Indians of the Brazilian Amazon: A Sense of Space. University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  20. Clements, F. E., 1916, Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation. Carnegie Institute of Washington, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  21. Connell, Joseph H., 1978, Diversity in tropical forests and coral reefs. Science 199: 1302–1310.Google Scholar
  22. Conklin, Beth A. and Laura Graham, 1995, The shifting middle ground: Amazonian Indians and eco-politics. American Anthropologist 97 (4): 695–710.Google Scholar
  23. Crumley, Carole L. (ed.), 1994, Historical Ecology: Cultural Knowledge and Changing Landscapes. School of American Research, Santa Fe.Google Scholar
  24. DeBoer, Warren R., Keith Kintigh, and Arthur Rostoker, 1996, Ceramic seriation and settlement reoccupation in lowland South America. Latin American Antiquity 7 (3): 263–278.Google Scholar
  25. Denevan, William M., 1966, The Aboriginal Cultural Geography of the Llanos de Mojos of Bolivia. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  26. Denevan, William M., 1990, Prehistoric roads and causeways in lowland tropical America. In Ancient Road Networks and Settlement Hierarchies in the New World, edited by Charles Trombold, pp. 230–242. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  27. Denevan, William M., 1992, The pristine myth: the landscape of the Americas in 1492. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82: 369–385.Google Scholar
  28. Denevan, William M., 1996, A bluff model of riverine settlement in prehistoric Amazonia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 86 (4): 654–681.Google Scholar
  29. Denevan, William M., 2001, Cultivated Landscapes of Native Amazonia and the Andes. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  30. Denevan, William M. and Christine Padoch (eds.), 1988, Swidden-fallow Agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon. Advances in Economic Botany. Volume 5, New York Botanical Gardens, New York.Google Scholar
  31. Dirzo, Rodolfo and Peter H. Raven, 2003, Global state of biodiversity and loss. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 28: 137–167.Google Scholar
  32. Durán Coirolo, Alicia and Roberto Bracco Boksar (eds.), 2000, La Arqueología de las Tierras Bajas. Comisión Nacional de Arqueología, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Montevideo, Uruguay.Google Scholar
  33. Erickson, Clark L., 1995, Archaeological perspectives on ancient landscapes of the Llanos de Mojos in the Bolivian Amazon. In Archaeology in the American Tropics: Current Analytical Methods and Applications, edited by Peter W. Stahl, pp. 66–95. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  34. Erickson, Clark L., 2000a, Lomas de ocupación en los Llanos de Moxos. In La Arqueología de las Tierras Bajas, edited by Alicia Durán Coirolo and Roberto Bracco Boksar, pp. 207–226. Comisión Nacional de Arqueología, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Montevideo, Uruguay.Google Scholar
  35. Erickson, Clark L., 2000b, An artificial landscape-scale fishery in the Bolivian Amazon. Nature 408: 190–193.Google Scholar
  36. Erickson, Clark L., 2001, Pre-columbian roads of the Amazon. Expedition 43 (2): 21–30.Google Scholar
  37. Erickson, Clark L., 2002, Large Moated Settlements: A Late Pre-Columbian Phenomenon in the Amazon. Paper presented at the 2nd Annual Meeting of The Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (SALSA). St. Johns College, Annapolis, Maryland.Google Scholar
  38. Erickson, Clark L., 2003, Historical ecology and future explorations. In Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management, edited by Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, and William I. Woods, pp. 455–500. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  39. Erickson, Clark L., 2006, The domesticated landscapes of the Bolivian Amazon. In Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands, edited by William Balée and Clark Erickson, pp. 235–278. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Erickson, Clark L., in press, Agency, roads, and the landscapes of everyday life in the Bolivian Amazon. In Landscapes of Movement: The Anthropology of Roads, Paths, and Trails, edited by James Snead, Clark Erickson, and Andy Darling, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  41. Erickson, Clark L. and William Balée, 2006, The historical ecology of a complex landscape in Bolivia. In Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands, edited by William Balée and Clark Erickson, pp. 187–234. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Erickson, Clark L. and John H. Walker, in press, Pre-columbian roads as landscape capital. In Landscapes of Movement: The Anthropology of Roads, Paths, and Trails, edited by James Snead, Clark Erickson, and Andy Darling, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  43. Glaser, Bruno and William Woods (eds.), 2004, Explorations in Amazonian Dark Earths in Time and Space. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.Google Scholar
  44. Goulding, Michael, Ronaldo Barthem and Efrem Ferreira, 2003, The Smithsonian Atlas of the Amazon. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  45. Gragson, Ted L., 1992, The use of palms by the Pume Indians of Southwestern Venezuela. Principes 36: 133–142.Google Scholar
  46. Gross, Daniel, 1975, Protein capture and cultural development in the Amazon Basin. American Anthropologist 77 (3): 526–549.Google Scholar
  47. Hayashida, Frances, 2005, Archaeology, ecological history, and conservation. Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 43–65.Google Scholar
  48. Hecht, Suzanna, 2003, Indigenous soil management and the creation of Amazonian Dark Earths: implications of Kayapó practices. In Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management, edited by Johannes Lehmann, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, and William I. Woods, pp. 355–372. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands.Google Scholar
  49. Heckenberger, Michael J., 1998, Manioc agriculture and sedentism in Amazonia: the Upper Xingu example. Antiquity 72 (277): 633–648.Google Scholar
  50. Heckenberger, Michael J., 2005, The Ecology of Power. Culture, Place, and Personhood in the Southern Amazon A.D. 1000–2000. Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  51. Heckenberger, Michael J., Afukaka Kuikuro, Urissapá Tabata Kuikuro, J. Christian Russell, Morgan Schmidt, Carlos Fausto, and Bruna Franchetto, 2003, Amazonia 1492: pristine forest or cultural parkland? Science 301: 1710–1714.Google Scholar
  52. Hiraoka, Mario, 1985, Floodplain farming in the Peruvian Amazon. Geographical Review of Japan. 58 (Ser. B): 1: 1–23.Google Scholar
  53. Iriarte, Jose, Irene Holst, Oscar Marozzi, Claudia Listopad, Eduardo Alonso, Andrés Rinderknecht and Juan Montaña, 2004, Evidence for cultivar adoption and emerging complexity during the mid-Holocene in the La Plata basin. Nature 432: 614–617.Google Scholar
  54. Janzen, Daniel H., 1997, Wildland biodiversity management in the tropics. In Biodiversity II: Understanding and Protecting our Biological Resources, edited by Marjorie Reaka-Kudla, Don Wilson, and Edward O. Wilson, pp. 411–431. Joseph Henry Press, Washington D.C.Google Scholar
  55. Lathrap, Donald W., 1970, The Upper Amazon. Praeger, New York.Google Scholar
  56. Lathrap, Donald W., 1973, The antiquity and importance of long-distance trade relationships in the moist tropics of pre-Columbian South America. World Archaeology 5 (2): 170–86.Google Scholar
  57. Lathrap, Donald W., 1974, The moist tropics, the arid lands, and the appearance of great art styles in the New World. The Museum of Texas Tech University, Special Publication No. 7, pp. 115–158. Lubbock.Google Scholar
  58. Lathrap, Donald W., 1987, The introduction of maize in prehistoric eastern North America: the view from Amazonia and the Santa Elena Peninsula. In Emergent Horticultural Economies of the Eastern Woodlands, edited by William F. Keegan, pp. 345–371. Southern Illinois University, Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper 7, Carbondale.Google Scholar
  59. Lathrap, Donald W., A. Gebhart-Sayer, and Ann Mester, 1985, The roots of the Shipibo art style: three waves on Imiriacocha or there were Incas before the Incas. Journal of Latin American Lore 11 (1): 31–119.Google Scholar
  60. Langstroth, Robert, 1996, Forest Islands in an Amazonian savanna of Northeastern-Bolivia. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison.Google Scholar
  61. Lee, Kenneth, 1995, Apuntes sobre las Obras Hidráulicas Prehispánicas de las Llanuras de Moxos: Una Opción Ecológica Inédita. Unpublished manuscript. Trinidad, Bolivia.Google Scholar
  62. Lehmann, Johannes, Dirse C. Kern, Bruno Glaser, and William I. Woods (eds.), 2003, Amazonian Dark Earths: Origin, Properties, Management. Kluwer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  63. Linares, Olga, 1976, “Garden hunting” in the American tropics. Human Ecology 4: 331–349.Google Scholar
  64. Lowie, Robert, 1948, The tropical forest: An Introduction. In Handbook of South American Indians Vol. 3: The Tropical Forest Tribes, edited by Julian Steward, pp. 1–56. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin No. 143. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  65. Maffi, Luisa, 2005, Linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity. Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 599–617.Google Scholar
  66. Marris, Emma, 2006, Black is the new green. Nature 442: 624–626.Google Scholar
  67. Meggers, Betty J., 1954, Environmental limitations on the development of culture. American Anthropologist 56: 801–24.Google Scholar
  68. Meggers, Betty J., 1971, Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise. Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  69. Meggers, Betty J., 1979, Climatic oscillation as a factor in the prehistory of Amazonia. American Antiquity 44: 252–266.Google Scholar
  70. Meggers, Betty J., 1995, Amazonia on the eve of European contact: ethnohistorical, ecological, and anthropological perspectives. Revista de Arqueología Americana 8: 91–115.Google Scholar
  71. Meggers, Betty J., 2001, The continuing quest for El Dorado: round two. Latin American Antiquity 12: 304–325.Google Scholar
  72. Mora, Santiago, 2003, Early Inhabitants of the Amazonian Tropical Rain Forest: A Study of Humans and Environmental Dynamics. University of Pittsburgh Latin American Archaeology Reports, No. 3, Pittsburgh.Google Scholar
  73. Moran, Emilio F., 1982, Human Adaptability: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  74. Moran, Emilio F., 1993, Through Amazonian Eyes: The Human Ecology of Amazonian Populations. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City.Google Scholar
  75. Neves, Eduardo G. and James B. Petersen, 2006, Political economy and pre-columbian landscape transformation in Central Amazonia. In Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies in the Neotropical Lowlands, edited by William Balée and Clark L. Erickson, pp. 279–310. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  76. Nimuendajú, Curt, 1952, The Tapajo. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers. 6:1–25.Google Scholar
  77. Nordenskiöld, Erland, 1913. Urnengraber und mounds im Bolivianischen flachlande. Baessler Archiv 3: 205–255. Berlin y Leipzig.Google Scholar
  78. Nordenskiöld, Erland, 1916, Die anpassung der Indianer an die verhältnisse in den uberschwemmungsgebieten in Südamerika. Ymer 36: 138–155. Stockholm.Google Scholar
  79. Oliveira, Paulo S. and Robert J. Marquis (eds.), 2002, The Cerrados of Brazil: Ecology and Natural History of a Neotropical Savanna. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  80. Pärssinen, Martti, Alceu Ranzi, Sanna Saunaluoma, and Ari Siiriäinen, 2003, Geometrically patterned ancient earthworks in the Rio Blanco Region of Acre, Brazil: new evidence of ancient chiefdom formations in Amazonian interfluvial terra firme environments. In Western Amazonia-Amazônia Ocidental: Multidisciplinary Studies on Ancient Expansionistic Movements, Fortifications, and Sedentary Life, edited by Martti Pärssinen and Antti Korpisaari, pp. 135–172. Helsinki: Renvall Institute Publications No. 14, Renvall Institute for Area and Cultural Studies, University of Helsinki.Google Scholar
  81. Peters, Charles, 2000, Pre-Columbian silviculture and indigenous management of neotropical forests. In Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Pre-Columbian Americas, edited by David Lentz, pp. 203–223. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  82. Pinto Parada, Rodolfo, 1987, Pueblo de Leyenda. Tiempo del Bolivia, Trinidad.Google Scholar
  83. Piperno, Dolores R. and Deborah M. Pearsall, 1998. The Origins of Agriculture in the Lowland Neotropics. Academic Press, San Diego.Google Scholar
  84. Piperno, Dolores R. Deborah M. Pearsall, Anthony J. Ranere, Irene Holst, and Patricia Hansell, 2000, Starch grains reveal early root crop horticulture in the Panamanian tropical forest. Nature 407: 894–897.Google Scholar
  85. Politis, Gustavo, 1996, Moving to produce: Nukak mobility and settlement patterns in Amazonia. World Archaeology 27: 492–511.Google Scholar
  86. Rostain, Stéphen, 1999, Secuencia arqueólogica en montículos del valle del Upano en la Amazonia ecuatoriana. Bulletin de l’Institut Français de Études Andines 28 (1): 53–89.Google Scholar
  87. Posey, Darrell A., 2004, Indigenous Knowledge and Ethics: A Darrell Posey Reader, edited by Kristina Plenderleith. Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  88. Posey, Darrell A., and William Balée (eds.), 1989, Resource Management in Amazonia: Indigenous and Folk Strategies. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.Google Scholar
  89. Pyne, Stephen J., 1998, Forged in fire: history, land, and anthropogenic fire. In Advances in Historical Ecology, edited by William Balée, pp. 62–103. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  90. Raffles, Hugh and Antoinette WinklerPrins, 2003, Further reflections on Amazonian environmental history: transformations of rivers and streams. Latin American Research Review 38 (3): 165–218.Google Scholar
  91. Ranzi, Alceu and Rodrigo Aguiar, 2004, Geoglifos da Amazônia: Perspectiva Aérea. Faculdades Energia, Florianópolis.Google Scholar
  92. Redford, Kent H., 1991, The ecologically noble savage. Cultural Survival Quarterly 15 (1): 46–48.Google Scholar
  93. Redman, Charles, 1999, Human Impact on Ancient Environments. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  94. Roosevelt, Anna C., 1991, Moundbuilders of the Amazon: Geophysical Archaeology on Marajo Island, Brazil. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  95. Roosevelt, Anna C., 1999, The development of prehistoric complex societies: Amazonia, a tropical forest. In Complex Polities in the Ancient Tropical World, edited by Elisabeth A. Bacus and Lisa J. Lucero, pp. 13–34, Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, Number 9, Arlington, VA.Google Scholar
  96. Roosevelt, Anna C., M. Lima da Costa, C. Lopes Machado, M. Michab, N. Mercier, H. Valladas, J. Feathers, W. Barnett, M. Imazio da Silveira, A Henderson, J. Sliva, B. Chernoff, D. S. Reese, J. A. Holman, N. Toth, and K. Schick, 1996, Paleoindian cave dwellers in the Amazon: the peopling of the Americas. Science 272: 373–384.Google Scholar
  97. Saavedra, Oscar, 2004, El sistema agrícola prehispánico de camellones en la Amazonia boliviana. In Agricultura Ancestral. Camellones y Albarradas: Contexto Social, Uso, y Retos del Pasado y del Presente, edited by Francisco Valdez, pp. 295–314. Editorial Abya-aylla, Quito.Google Scholar
  98. Sanford, R. L., J. Saldarriaga, K. Clark, C. Uhl, and R. Herrera, 1985, Amazon rainforest fires. Science 227: 53–55.Google Scholar
  99. Smith, Nigel J. H., 1980, Anthrosols and human carrying capacity in Amazonia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 70 (4): 553–566.Google Scholar
  100. Smith, Nigel J. H., 1999, The Amazon River Forest: A Natural History of Plants, Animals and People. Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  101. Stab, Sabina and Julio Arce, 2000, Pre-hispanic raised-field cultivation as an alternative to slash-and burn agriculture in the Bolivian Amazon: agroecological evaluation of field experiments. In Biodiversidad, conservación y manejo en la región de la Reserva de la Biosfera Estación Biológica del Beni, Bolivia: Biodiversity, conservation and management in the region of the Beni Biological Station Biosphere Reserve, Bolivia, edited by Olga Herrera-MacBryde, Francisco Dallmeier, Bruce MacBryde, James A. Comiskey, and Carmen Miranda, pp. 317–327. Smithsonian Institution, SI/MAB Biodiversity Program, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  102. Stahl, Peter W., 1991, Arid landscapes and environmental transformations in ancient southwestern Ecuador. World Archaeology 22 (3): 346–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Stahl, Peter W., 1996, Holocene biodiversity: an archaeological perspective from the Americas. Annual Review of Anthropology 25: 105–126.Google Scholar
  104. Stahl, Peter W., 2000, Archaeofaunal accumulation, fragmented forests, and anthropogenic landscape mosaics in the tropical lowlands of prehispanic Ecuador. Latin American Antiquity 11 (3): 241–257.Google Scholar
  105. Stahl, Peter W., 2006, Microvertebrate synecology and anthropogenic footprints in the forested neotropics. In Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology: Studies from the Neotropical Lowlands, edited by William Balée and Clark Erickson, pp. 127–149. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  106. Steward, Julian H. (ed.), 1948, Handbook of South American Indians, Vol. 3: The Tropical Forest Tribes. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin No. 143. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  107. Sutton, Mark O. and E. N. Anderson, 2004, Introduction to Cultural Ecology. Altamira, Walnut Creek, CA.Google Scholar
  108. Valdez, Francisco (ed.), 2006, Agricultura Ancestral. Camellones y Albarradas: Contexto Social, Uso, y Retos del Pasado y del Presente. Editorial Abya-Yala, Quito.Google Scholar
  109. Walker, John H., 2004, Agricultural Change in the Bolivian Amazon. Latin American Archaeology Reports, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.Google Scholar
  110. Whitten, Richard, 1979, Comments on the theory of Holocene refugia in the culture history of Amazonia. American Antiquity 44: 238–251.Google Scholar
  111. Woods, W. and J. M. McCann, 1999, The anthropogenic origin and persistence of Amazonian Dark Earths. Yearbook Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers 25: 7–14.Google Scholar
  112. Wust, Irmild and Christiana Barreto, 1999, The ring villages of central Brazil: a challenge for Amazonian archaeology. Latin American Antiquity 10 (1): 3–23.Google Scholar
  113. Zimmerer, Karl and Kenneth Young (eds.), 1998, Nature’s Geography: New Lessons for Conservation in Developing Countries. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clark L. Erickson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations