The Historical Ecology of a Domesticated Landscape
Traditional models assume that Amazonian societies did not develop into “civilizations” solely because of deterministic environmental limitations. Historical ecology, in contrast, sees landscape as a medium created by human agents through intentional interaction with the environment that shapes biodiversity and environmental health. This chapter presents archaeological examples of human activities that have created, transformed, and managed environments and their association to biodiversity to argue that ancient peoples domesticated the landscape, creating what we recognize as “nature” in Amazonia. Rather than “adapt to” or be “limited by” the Amazonian environment, humans created, transformed, and managed cultural or anthropogenic landscapes that suited their purposes. These landscapes range from the subtle (often confused with “natural” or “pristine”) to the completely engineered.
Keywords: Amazonia, environmental determinism, domestication of landscape, archaeology, indigenous knowledge, historical ecology