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Their discovery, in an area of northern Bolivia and western Brazil, follows other recent reports of vast sprawls of interconnected villages known as "garden cities" in north central Brazil, dating from around AD 1400. But the structures unearthed at the garden city sites are not as consistently similar or geometric as the geoglyphs, Schaan says.
The human imprint on seemingly natural areas was convincingly argued by Denevan (1992) in his critique of the “pristine myth” of the pre-Columbian Americas. Additional work by geographers, archaeologists, historians, and others continues to illustrate the ways that indigenous people of the Americas and elsewhere shaped the landscapes they inhabited (Bal´ee 1998a; Denevan 2001; Doolittle 2000; G´omez-Pompa et al. 2003;
Head 1989, 2000; Kay & Simmons 2002; Kirch & Hunt 1997; Lentz 2000; Minnis & Elisens 2000; Peacock 1998; Willis et al. 2004), a fact often missed by colonial observers
who wrote at a time of dramatic population decline and severe social disruption.
Evidence of past human impacts and of their long-term effects comes from a wide
range of sources, including environmental archaeology, paleoecology, history, geography, geology, and cultural anthropology. Categories of data include botanical, faunal, and geological observations from archaeological sites and natural or off-site contexts (e.g., wetland cores, packrat middens); the distribution of sites and landscape features (roads, paths, fields) that provide information on population distribution, densities, and land use; current vegetation patterning; experiments that replicate natural and cultural processes and their effects; and written and oral historical references to past environments and land-use practices.
The myth persists that in 1492 the Americas were a sparsely populated wilderness, "a world of barely perceptible human disturbance." There is substantial evidence, however, that the Native American landscape of the early sixteenth century was a humanized landscape almost everywhere. Populations were large. Forest composition had been modified, grasslands had been created, wildlife disrupted, and erosion was severe in places. Earthworks, roads, fields, and settlements were ubiquitous. With Indian depopulation in the wake of Old World disease, the
environment recovered in many areas. A good argument can be made that the human presence was less visible in 1750 than it was in 1492.
The evidence is convincing. By 1492 Indian activity throughout the Americas had modified forest extent and composition, created and expanded grasslands, and rearranged microrelief via countless artificial earthworks. Agricultural fields were common, as were houses and towns and roads and trails. All of these had local impacts on soil, microclimate, hydrology, and wildlife. This is a large topic, for which this essay offers but an introduction to the issues, misconceptions, and residual problems. The evidence, pieced together from vague ethnohistorical accounts, field surveys, and archaeology, supports the hypothesis that the Indian landscape of 1492 had largely vanished by the mid-eighteenth century, not through a European superimposition, but because of the demise of the native population. The landscape
of 1750 was more "pristine" (less humanized) than that of 1492.
Traditional historical, geographical, anthropological, and archaeological perspectives on native Amazonia share these negative views. In the classic literature, past and present Amazonian cultures are considered to have been determined largely by the environment to which they adapted. What appears to be a lush, bountiful setting for human development is actually a counterfeit paradise according to some scholars (e.g., Meggers 1971). Environmental limitations, such as poor soils and a lack of protein, combined with a limited technology, few domestic animals, and abundant unoccupied land restricted social development. The simple societies of Amazonia did not evolve into what we recognize as civilization. In this traditional view, the environment as an immutable given or a fixed entity to which human societies adapt (or do not, and thus, fail, and disappear). The basic assumption is that poor environments produce simple societies (band societies of hunters, gatherers, and fishers or tribal societies of subsistence farmers) and the corollary, that rich environments produce complex societies (chiefly and state societies of urban and rural folk).
Historical ecology provides a radical, alternative perspective for understanding
human-environment interaction over the long term and the complex human histories of environments. Historical ecology focuses on landscape as the medium created by human agents through their interaction with the environment. Although landscapes can be the result of unintentional activities, historical ecologists focus on the intentional actions of people and the logic of indigenous knowledge, particularly the understanding of resource creation and management. Historical ecologists, borrowing from the new ecology, argue that disturbance caused by human activities is a key factor in shaping biodiversity and environmental health.
Whereas most traditional archaeologists study sites, archaeologists doing historical ecology focus on the largely ignored space between sites or landscape (Ashmore and Knapp 1998). In the rural Andes and Amazon where I work, people do most of their daytime activities such as farming, building walls, visiting neighbors, sharing labor, and collecting wild resources in the landscape rather than within the confines of sites which are primarily used for eating and sleeping. Because the totality of people’s lives in the past is important, archaeologists must include landscapes in their studies.
Because they are physical and created by repetitive activities through time, landscapes are ideal artifacts for historical ecologists. Archaeologists often apply the metaphor of “reading” landscapes in the sense that cultural patterns created through human activity have meaning and intent that can be deciphered through contextual analysis. Permanent improvements to the land are considered landscape capital, investments that are handed down generation after generation (Brookfield 2002). Later generations benefit from the labor and knowledge of their ancestors embedded in landscape. In a recursive relationship, their lives are often structured by roads, trails, paths, field boundaries, irrigation canals, and clearings for houses imposed on the landscape by past inhabitants. Multiple, often contrasting, landscape patterns, which represent different systems of land use and management, are often embedded in landscapes as palimpsests or layered, sequential traces.
Originally posted by Aquarius1
reply to post by Animal
Thank you for your research Animal, am still going through it, very interesting stuff..