Bolivian amazon history

Les Schaffer godzilla at
Tue Nov 14 09:40:27 MST 2000

interesting Nature article on Bolivian Amazon basin history, see
below. made me think of recent debates on history of capitalism and
also posts on euro-centric view of development.

------- Nature abstract ------

Nature 408, 190 - 193 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

An artificial landscape-scale fishery in the Bolivian Amazon


Historical ecologists working in the Neotropics argue that the present
natural environment is an historical product of human intentionality
and ingenuity, a creation that is imposed, built, managed and
maintained by the collective multigenerational knowledge and
experience of Native Americans. In the past 12,000 years, indigenous
peoples transformed the environment, creating what we now recognize as
the rich ecological mosaic of the Neotropics. The prehispanic savanna
peoples of the Bolivian Amazon built an anthropogenic landscape
through the construction of raised fields, large settlement mounds,
and earthen causeways. I have studied a complex artificial network of
hydraulic earthworks covering 525 km 2 in the Baures region of
Bolivia. Here I identify a particular form of earthwork, the zigzag
structure, as a fish weir, on the basis of form, orientation,
location, association with other hydraulic works and ethnographic
analogy. The native peoples used this technology to harvest sufficient
animal protein to sustain large and dense populations in a savanna


plus this NYTimes writeup:


"What archaeology in the Amazon is showing is that the present is not
always a good guide to what the past was like," Dr. DeBoer
said. "Today's small-scale societies in the region are really refugees
from colonialism, and quite different from the earlier people who
found many ways to transform their environment."

The new findings, Dr. Erickson said, show that much of the Amazon
basin is not a true wilderness, but "a landscape that has been built
by humans over the past 12,000 years."


les schaffer

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