Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact
For many millennia the cave's inhabitants hunted and gathered for food. But by about 4,000 years ago they were growing crops—perhaps as many as 140 of them, according to Charles R. Clement, an anthropological botanist at the Brazilian National Institute for Amazonian Research. Unlike Europeans, who planted mainly annual crops, the Indians, he says, centered their agriculture on the Amazon's unbelievably diverse assortment of trees: fruits, nuts, and palms. "It's tremendously difficult to clear fields with stone tools," Clement says. "If you can plant trees, you get twenty years of productivity out of your work instead of two or three."
Planting their orchards, the first Amazonians transformed large swaths of the river basin into something more pleasing to human beings. In a widely cited article from 1989, William Balée, the Tulane anthropologist, cautiously estimated that about 12 percent of the nonflooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin—directly or indirectly created by human beings. In some circles this is now seen as a conservative position. "I basically think it's all human-created," Clement told me in Brazil. He argues that Indians changed the assortment and density of species throughout the region. So does Clark Erickson, the University of Pennsylvania archaeologist, who told me in Bolivia that the lowland tropical forests of South America are among the finest works of art on the planet.
Marco Banks wrote:
Yes, small parts of the amazon were cultivated, but we are talking about 2.1 MILLION square miles. Any field or orchard this is abandoned for even one year is quickly overcome with new growth. Within 10 years, you wouldn't even be able to tell that there was once a cultivated place there.
“The great dying of the indigenous peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth system in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” wrote the UCL team of Alexander Koch, Chris Brierley, Mark Maslin and Simon Lewis.
The drop in temperature during this period is known as the “Little Ice Age”, a time when the River Thames in London would regularly freeze over, snowstorms were common in Portugal and disrupted agriculture caused famines in several European countries.
Tereza Okava wrote:The link I forgot to put in before: just one example of new research indicating how little we know https://www.businessinsider.com/archaeologists-found-previously-undiscovered-settlements-in-the-amazon-2018-3
Terra preta in regions also considered to have been "just wild" seems to discount this idea. We apparently still have a lot to learn, and like Julia says, the sooner we get on this the better!!
"Many parts of the Americas now thought of as pristine forest are really abandoned gardens," Christopher Fisher, an archaeologist at Colorado State University who was not involved in the study, told The Wall Street Journal.
The Amazon rainforest, once thought of as completely untouched before European colonization except by small bands of hunter-gatherers, may actually have supported a kind of large-scale sustainable agriculture that influences the growth of the forest to this day.
"The forest is an artifact of modification," de Souza, the study's lead author, told The Washington Post. "It has nothing to do with the kind of practice we are seeing nowadays — large-scale, clearing monoculture. These people were combining small-scale agriculture with management of useful tree species. So it was more a sustainable kind of land use."
Kyle Neath wrote:If you haven't read the book this is from (1491), I'd definitely suggest it. (snip)
Once I was able to rearrange my perspective from Americans were technologically behind Europeans to Americans were innovating in food while Europeans were innovating in war, it really helped a lot of things click into place in my head.