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  • 1. Towards an Environmental History of the Amazon: From Prehistory to the Nineteenth Century Author(s): David Cleary Source: Latin American Research Review, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2001), pp. 64-96 Published by: The Latin American Studies Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2692088 . Accessed: 21/06/2011 21:28 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=lamer. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. The Latin American Studies Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Latin American Research Review. http://www.jstor.org
  • 2. 4~~~~~~~~~~ h Orinoco Essequio Figur1.TMinRvegr St f h AMarajm II'uns Tocentn lanosde hMojosf I I Figure 1. TheMain River Systemsof"theAmazon" 64
  • 3. TOWARDS AN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON: FromPrehistorytotheNineteenthCentury* DavidCleary TheNatureConservancy Abstract:ThisarticlereviewstheenvironmentalhistoryoftheAmazonbasinfrom earlyprehistorytothe1850s,concludingatthestartoftherubberboom.Itargues thattheAmazon'spastcanbeunderstoodintermsofa transitionfromwilderness tolandscape,ina broadlysimilarwaytotheenvironmentalhistoryofEuropeand NorthAmerica.A detailedoverviewofthearchaeologicalrecordsuggeststhat bothfloodplainanduplandenvironmentswereheavilyinfluencedbyhumanin- terventionduringprehistory.Thecolonialandearlyrepublicanperiodsalsosaw dramaticenvironmentalchanges.InterpretationsoftheAmazonthatstressenvi- ronmentalconstraintsonhumanagencyorportrayitaslargelyvirginalorun- settledpriortothemodernperiodareatbestanoversimplification. Onbothsidesofthisriverwe passedthemostbeautifullcountrie thatevermineeiesbeheld; andwhereasallthatwehadseenbefore wasnothingbutwoods,prickles, bushesandthornes,heerewebeheld plainesoftwentymilesinlength, thegrassshortandgreene, andindiverspartsgrovesoftrees bythemselves,as iftheyhadbeen byalltheartandlabour intheworldsomadeofpurpose; andstilas werowedtheDeere camedownefeedingbythewatersside, as iftheyhadbeenusedtoa keeperscall SirWalterRaleigh,1596 TheDiscoverieoftheLarge,Rich andBewtifulEmpyreofGuiana *Theauthorwould like to thankBillWoods forthemap and help withthearchaeology, threeanonymousLARRreviewersfortheirhelp in refiningthetext,and JohnWomackand theDepartmentofHistoryatHarvardforprovidingthenew institutionalcontextthatgave birthtoit.Views expressedarepersonaland unrelatedtoThe NatureConservancy. LatinAmericanResearchReviewvolume36number2 ? 2001 65
  • 4. LatinAmericanResearchReview Tobeginatthebeginning:whereis theAmazon,and whatis meant byit?Thisis notas strangea questionas itmightseem.The rivertheEn- glishlanguagecallstheAmazon has threenamesinPortugueseand Span- ish.TheAmazonas applies onlyfromtheestuaryto thejunctionwiththe Rio Negro.Thereaftertheriverbecomes theSolim6esuntilitentersPeru, whereitiscalledtheMarafo6n.Scholarstypicallytakerefugeintheillusory certaintiesofphysicalgeographyand use thetermAmazonas a synonym fortheAmazon basin,theareadrainedbythemainchanneloftheAmazon and itstributaries.Butthisapproachis also problematic,sinceinthispart oftheworldtheboundarybetweenlandand waterfluctuates.Theseasonal rhythmsofclimateand rainfallfloodlargeplainson theedges oftheAma- zon basin: thegrasslandsand forestislands ofLlanos de Mojos in north- easternBolivia,theRupununisavanna in theGuyanese interior,and the PantanalmarshlandsinMatoGrosso.Theseannualfloodsextendthecapil- larynetworkofAmazonianriverstocommunicatewithadjoiningriversys- temsthatarenotpartoftheAmazon basin:theRupununitotheEssequibo and theMojostotheGuaporeand thenceviathePantanaltotheheadwaters oftheParaguai.In addition,a permanentwaterway,theCasiquiare Canal, linksthesouthernheadwatersoftheOrinocowiththenorthernheadwaters oftheRio Negro.In theory,withgood timingand patience,a smallcanoe could travelfromtheOrinocoestuarytothemouthoftheRio de la Plata, oneofthefewjourneysapparentlynevermadebysomecrazedadventurer. These connectionsarenotmeregeographicalcuriosities.Theyformedthe basis ofan extensivesystemoftraderoutespriorto thesixteenthcentury thatlinkedtheAmazon totheOrinoco,theCaribbean,and theAndes.' As ifthesefuzzyboundarieswerenotenough,definitionsoftheAma- zon based on physicalgeographyarevulnerabletoreductioad absurdum. A numberofriversystemsintheGuianaShield,mostnotablytheEssequibo butalso includingtheCorantijn,theMaroni,and theOiapoque, draininto theAtlanticratherthanintotheAmazon. Themostextremeexampleis the BrazilianstateofAmapa',onthenorthernshoreoftheAmazon estuary,rid- dled byriversystemsdrainingintoeithertheAmazon ortheAtlanticand thereforesimultaneouslypartand notpartoftheAmazon basin.Itwould be a braveacademic orpoliticianwho arguedthatGuyana,Surinam,and FrenchGuiana arenotAmazoniancountries,eventhoughregionalhydrog- raphyclearlyshowsthatamongthemtheycannotmustera singleriverthat drainsintotheAmazon.2Anthropologicalconventionlikewisedictatesthat 1.Themostdetailedworkon ancienttradenetworksconcernslinksamongtheCaribbean, theAndes, theOrinoco,and northernAmazonia. See A. Boomert,"GiftsoftheAmazons: GreenstonePendantsand Beads as ItemsofCeremonialExchange,"Antropologica67 (1987): 33-54;andNeilWhitehead,"TheMazaruniPectoral:AGoldenArtefactDiscoveredinGuyana and theHistoricalSources ConcerningNative Metallurgyin theCaribbean,Orinoco,and NorthernAmazonia," ArchaeologyandAnthropology7 (1990):19-36. 2. One could quibble thatFrenchGuiana is nota countrybut an overseas departmentof 66
  • 5. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON themanyindigenouspeoples oftheGuianas areunambiguouslyAmazon- ian,whilemaps ofthedistributionof"Amazonianlanguagefamilies"take inthesouthernCaribbeanand muchoftheOrinoco.3Virtuallyno one ac- tuallymeanstheAmazon when sayingit,and thisarticleis no exception. Theareaisvaguelydefined,takinginmostofthenorthernand centraltropi- cal lowlands ofSouthAmerica,and is notrestrictedto theAmazon basin. Sometimesitstretchesas faras thesouthernCaribbeancoastortheOrinoco orParaguay,sometimesitdoes not. Buthoweverscholarschoosenottodefineit,theAmazon is,trueto stereotype,themostbiodiverseplace intheworld.The listsofnumbersof speciesbecomesteadilymoremeaninglesswithrepetition-howcanscien- tistsknowhow manyspeciesareunknown?Whatis clearis thatno taxon- omy,indigenousorscientific,adequatelycapturesthefullvarietyofhabitats and ecosystemsthattheregioncontains.Beyondthegeneraldistinctionbe- tweenvarzeafloodplainand upland terrafirme,no standardtaxonomyex- istsofregionalenvironments,althoughseveralattemptshavebeenmade.4 Classificationbecomesan exerciseinfractalgeometry:thecloseronecomes, themoreunderlyingpatternsofcomplexityrevealthemselves.Itisan enor- mousironythatthiscomplexity,takenforgrantedand enthusiasticallycat- aloguedforoverthreecenturiesinspecialistcircles,coexistswitha tradition oferuditeand popularrepresentationoftropicalnatureintheAmazon that stressesitsuniformityand monotony.Not theleastofthecomplicationsof writingabouttheAmazon is thepersistenceofthesestubbornrepresenta- tionalconventions,whichhave conditionedperceptionsoftheregionfrom thecolonialperiodtothepresent.Forests,howeverclassified,areportrayed as virginaland primeval.The regionitselfis seen as impenetrable,whena simpleglanceata map showsthatno place onearthoffersmoreavenuesof penetration.The merenotionofan environmentalhistoryoftheAmazon thereforeimmediatelyleads to a paradox: eitheritwillbe thehistoryofa naturaldomainthatcanhavenohistoryexceptforthetaleofitsdestruction, France,buttheinclusionofSurinamand Guyana intheAmazon Pactclearlyshows thatthe Guianas areregardedinternationallyas Amazonian.One ofthemanyinterestingthingsabout themistheintersticetheyoccupybetweentheAmazon and theCaribbean.Forexample,they were regardedas partoftheCaribbean world by theircolonial masters,and cricketis the nationalsportofGuyana. They exemplifythe fuzzinessofregionalboundaries discussed here. 3.See,forexample,PeterRiviere'ssettingofGuiana Amerindiansina broaderAmazonian contextinIndividualandSocietyinGuiana:A ComparativeStudyofAmerindianSocialOrganiza- tion(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1984);and thefoundationalmap ofAmazon- ianlanguagedistributionbyCurtNimuendajiu,Mapa etno-hist6ricodoBrasileregidesadjacentes (Rio de Janeiro:InstitutoBrasileirode Geografiae Estatistica,1980,firstpublishedin 1944). "TheGuianas" arehereunderstoodtocompriseGuyana,Surinam,and FrenchGuiana. 4. Fora valiantrecentattempt,see EmilioMoran,ThroughAmazonianEyes(Iowa City:Uni- versityofIowa Press,1993). 67
  • 6. LatinAmericanResearchReview oritwillbe thehistoryofa naturaldomainfartoocomplexfora chronolog- icalaccountofitsdevelopmenttobe imagined. ThisarticlewillsummarizetheenvironmentalhistoryoftheAmazon fromprehistorytothestartoftherubberboom.Themodernperiodrequires a separateessay,giventhespeedandscaleofenvironmentaltransformation. Theargumentrejectstheidea thatanythinglikea comprehensiveenviron- mentalhistoryoftheAmazonisimpossible,giventhebiologicalcomplexity oftheregion.Insomerespects,onecouldarguethattheAmazon isactually an easiersubjectforenvironmentalhistoriansthansome otherpartsofthe world.The size oftheregionis notan insurmountableproblem.Environ- mentalhistorianshavetendedtotakelargegeographicalareasas theirunit ofanalysis:theMediterranean,theCaribbeanand Mexico,NorthAmerica, theBrazilianAtlanticforest,evenEuropeand theAmericascombined.5No individualcould hope tomasterall thesourcesbearingon environmental changein such well-studiedregions,as is reflectedin thecanonicaltexts. FernandBraudel,Carl Sauer,and AlfredCrosbywrotesynthesizingover- views based on radicallyselectivereadingand archivework,buttheyare no lessvaluable forthat.ThefactthattheAmazon has inspireda lessvolu- minousliteraturethanMexicoortheCaribbean,forexample,is insomere- spectsunfortunatebutatleastallowsresearcherstomastera largerpropor- tionofthesources. Far frombeing impossibleto write,thebroad outlineof environ- mentalchangeintheAmazon is actuallyfairlystraightforward.Ithas five phases:earlyhumanoccupationbased on a combinationoffishingand for- aging;a subsequentintensificationoflandmanagementoveratleast10,000 years;depopulationprecipitatedbythearrivalofEuropeansand therecol- onizationofmuchofthebasinbyforestand secondarygrowth;an expan- sionofextractivisminthelatenineteenthcenturyand thereoccupationof riverineecosystems,duringwhichtheAmazon's populationreturnedto pre-Columbianlevels;and a phase ofunprecedentedlyrapidenvironmen- talchangein thepostwarperiod,mostofitunnecessarilydestructiveand concentratedmorein upland ecosystemsthanthefloodplain.The devil is inthedetail,and therestofthisarticlewillbe devotedtoexorcisingittothe 5.FernandBraudel,TheMediterraneanandtheMediterraneanWorldintheAgeofPhilipII (New York:Harperand Row,1973);AlfredCrosby,TheColumbianExchange:BiologicalandCultural Consequencesof1492(Westport,Conn.: Greenwood,1972);ElinorMelville,A PlagueofSheep: EnvironmentalConsequencesoftheConquestofMexico(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1997);CarlSauer,TheEarlySpanishMain (Berkeleyand Los Angeles:UniversityofCalifornia Press,1992;firstpublishedin1966);and David Watts,TheWestIndies:PatternsofDevelopment, Culture,andEnvironmentalChangesince1492(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1987). ForBrazilianenvironmentalhistory,scholarsowe an enormousdebttothepioneeringwork ofWarrenDean, tragicallyabbreviatedby his prematuredeath.See especiallyBrazilandthe StruggleforRubber:A StudyinEnvironmentalHistory(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress, 1987);and WithBroadaxandFirebrand:TheDestructionoftheBrazilianAtlanticForest(Berkeley and Los Angeles:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,1995). 68
  • 7. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON extentpossibleina singleessay.Thisisa largelyempiricalexercise,butitis importanttobearinmindthetheoreticalissuesthattheendeavoraddresses. In recentyears,thecentralquestionindebatesabouttheAmazon in a numberofdisciplineshas been thenatureofenvironmentalconstraints on economyand culture.Ironically,partofthisargumentis groundedin a muchmoredetailedawarenessofbiologicalcomplexityand regionalvari- ationwithintheAmazon. Thisbody ofknowledgeemergedin turnfrom researchdrivenby concernforwhatwas routinelyconstructedby policy makers,scientists,and othersas pristinewilderness.Inthisbarrageofnew data and novelinterpretations,one factstandsout:thescale ofhumanin- terventioninAmazonianecosystemsovertime.Researchersnowknowthat theSouthAmericanlowlands were occupied by humansformanythou- sands ofyearslongerthanwas previouslythought.6Intensiveagriculture was practicedby indigenousAmazonians in bothfloodplainand upland environmentsformillenniabeforethearrivalofEuropeans.Significantland- scape transformationoccurred,inseverallocationson a scalethatcan only be appreciatedfromtheair.Historianscan suspectthatthepopulationde- clinesubsequenttothearrivalofEuropeansintheAmazon was evenmore precipitousthanhasbeensupposed,althoughitoperatedovera longertime- scalethanpreviouslythought.Itis knownthattheconsequentreversionof muchofthebasin,especiallythefloodplain,touncultivatedsecondarygrowth bythenineteenthcenturymeantthatmuchofthesupposedlyprimevalfor- estwas actuallybetweenone and twocenturiesold,atleastalongthemain channeloftheAmazon and itstributaries,bythetimea seriesofgreatnat- uralscientistsintroducedtheregiontotheinternationalreadingpublicin quintessentiallyVictorianbookssaturatedwithliberalRomanticismand an omnivorous,interdisciplinaryscientificzeal.7 Inthedebatesoverenvironmentalconstraints,a definingfeaturehas 6. The dates are highlycontroversial.One siteat Pedra Furada in northeasternBrazilhas been convincinglydated at circa50,000B.P. See Paul Bahn, "50,000-Year-OldAmericansof PedraFurada,"Nature362(11Mar.1993):114-15.Althoughthispointis controversialinNorth Americanarchaeology,itislessso inEurope,whereitiswidelyacceptedinFranceand Britain. Anothersite,MonteVerdeinChile,excavatedbyThomas Dillehay,has been securelydated ataround12,500B.P. BothfindingsimplyinitialhumanoccupationoftheAmazon manymil- lenniapriortotheearliestcarbondatesrecordedup tothepresent(circa11,000B.P.), butthis isconceivable.Thespottynatureofthearchaeologicalrecordinthelowlandsatpresenttogether withthecollapse oftheClovis paradigmsuggestthatas furtherresearchis done inthelow- lands,thedate forinitialhumanoccupationoftheAmazon will move back intime.The lat- estevidencetoemerge,skeletalremainsfromsouthernBrazildatedtentativelyat 11,500B.P., reinforcesthissupposition.See "AnAncientSkullChallengesLong-HeldTheories,"NewYork Times,26 Oct. 1999,p. Dl. 7.Theirclassictextsarea basicsourcefortheenvironmentaloranyotherhistoryofthelow- lands.See HenryBates,TheNaturalistontheRiverAmazons(London:JohnMurray,1863);Alex- andervon Humboldtand Aime Bonpland,PersonalNarrativeofTravelstotheEquinoctialRe- gionsoftheNewContinent(London:Longman,Hurst,Rees,OrmeandBrown,1821-1825);Johann SpixandCarlvonMartius,ViagempeloBrasil,1817-1820(Sao Paulo:Itatiaia,1981;firstpublished 69
  • 8. LatinAmericanResearchReview beenan unproblematizeddistinctionbetweenthenaturaland thecultural, and argumentsover the extentto which,crudelyspeaking,naturecon- strainsculture.8To outsiders,theseargumentsmustoftenappear provin- cial. Some anthropologistsand archaeologistsadopted a positionofhard environmentaldeterminism,arguingthatthenatureofNatureintheAma- zon precludedformsofsocial organizationmorecomplexthanthesmall villageand shiftingcultivation,unlesstheAmazonianshappened tobe in- trudersfrommoresociallyadvanced partsofthecontinent(liketheAndes) intheprocessofdecline.9Othersrejectedthetermsofthedebateand criti- cized thedistinctionbetweenthenaturaland theculturalonbothphilosoph- icaland ethnographicgrounds.The mostextendedcritiquewas provided byPhilippeDescola, who has arguedthatthemultiplicityand synergistic natureofrelationshipsbetweenanAmazoniansocietyand itsenvironment inpracticemakesdeterminingcausationdangerouslyspeculative.10A neat exampleofthisabstractpointis Laura Rival's analysisoftherelationship betweentheHuaorani and peach palms. Peach palm grovesgrowin the forestbutaremanagedbytheHuaoraniincomplexways.Likemanyforms ofindigenousland managementinAmazonia,Huaorani peach palms fall intoa grayareabetweengatheringand farmingthatmakesa distinctionbe- tweenthewild and thedomesticatedimpossibletomaintain:forestscanbe tameand gardenswild.11The constructionofthenature-culturedualism is ourproblem,nottheirs.12 in 1831); RichardSpruce,Notesofa Botaniston theAmazonandAndes(London: Macmillan, 1908);and AlfredWallace,A NarrativeofTravelsontheAmazonandRioNegro(London: Reeve, 1863). 8. The numberofpotentialcitationshereis enormous.A representativesample ofthean- thropologicalschool ofenvironmentaldeterminismis AdaptiveResponsesofNativeAmazo- nians,editedbyRobertHames and WilliamVickers(New York:Academic Press,1983).This workisa productofa predominantlyNorthAmericanapproachoftencalledhumanecology, whosebest-knownexponentisperhapsNapoleonChagnon.A fundamentalcritiqueisPhilippe Descola,In theSocietyofNature:A NativeEcologyinAmazonia(Cambridge:CambridgeUniver- sityPress,1994).A similaroppositionexistsinarchaeologybetweentheworkofBettyMeggers and Anna Roosevelt,citedin subsequentnotes. 9. Thebest-knownexpressionofthisview is BettyMeggers,Amazonia:Man andCulturein a CounterfeitParadise(Washington,D.C.: SmithsonianInstitutionPress,1996;firstpublished in 1971). 10.Descola, In theSocietyofNature,5-6. He is talkingoftheAchuar,butthepointholdsfor indigenoussocietiesintheAmazon ingeneral. 11.LauraRival,"Domesticationas a HistoricalandSymbolicProcess:WildGardensand Cul- tivatedForestintheEcuadorianAmazon,"inAdvancesinHistoricalEcology,editedbyWilliam Balee (New York:Columbia UniversityPress,1998),232-50. 12.Ethnoecologistshave made thisargumentfora longtime.See ResourceManagementin Amazonia:IndigenousandFolkStrategies,editedbyDarrellPoseyandWilliamBalee (New York: New YorkBotanicalGarden,1989),vol. 7 ofAdvancesinEconomicBotany.See especiallythe contributionsby Balee, "The CultureofAmazonian Forests,"1-21,and Dominique Irvine, "SuccessionManagementand ResourceDistributionin an Amazonian Rainforest,"223-37. 70
  • 9. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON Itfollowsthata trulyhistoricizedaccountoftheAmazon's past,an indispensablepreliminaryto policymakingin thepresent,should regard thenature-culturedividethathasunderlainso muchresearchonAmazonia withdeep suspicion.I suggestthatthenotionoflandscape and landscape history,derivedfromenvironmentalhistory,is one way outofthevarious intellectualand representationalproblemsthathave bedeviledwritingon theAmazon. "Landscape" is notthemostpreciseofconcepts,butitdoes conveythetransitionfromwildernesstoartificiallymodifiedand manipu- latedenvironment,inwhichnaturecoexistswithcultureand imbuesitwith a senseofscalethattranscendsthepurelylocal.Itisnowclearthatsincethe late Pleistocene(before12,000B.P.), indigenous Amazonians have been manipulatingecosystems,dealing or failingto deal with ecosystemre- sponsestohumanintervention,and unleashinga chainofintendedandun- intendedenvironmentalconsequences.In Europeand NorthAmerica,the studyofthetransitionfromwildernesstolandscapehasbeena centralcon- cernofenvironmentalhistoriansand historicalgeographersfordecades.13 Itmayseemsomethingofa leap fromthemanicuredlandscapesofTuscany and theCotswoldstotheNapo ortheSolimoes,butunderstandingofthe Amazonwould be helpedbythinkingofitas landscapeand understanding itspastintermsoflandscapeformation,as indealingwithEuropeorNorth America:somethingproducedbycomplexinteractionsbetweenhumansand ecosystemsfromthePleistocenetothepresent. Thereare manyimportantdifferencesamonglandscape formation inEurope,NorthAmerica,and theAmazon: huge variationsin densityof settlement,agriculturalintensity,and continuityofoccupation.Fromthe seventeenthcenturytothepresent,thehistoryoftheAmazon is aboutdis- placement,depopulation,and recolonization,nottheintensive,continuous, and wholesaletransformationsthathave markedlandscape historyinEu- rope and NorthAmerica.ButI would suggestthattheevidenceas to the antiquityand scaleofthehumanpresenceinAmazoniamakescomparisons withEuropeand NorthAmericafarfromfanciful.Forexample,themound complexesofMarajo and Llanos de Mojos immediatelymakeone thinkof theparallelsthatmightexistwiththemoundcomplexesofCahokiaand the MississippiValley,anotherAmericanvarzea supportinga complexciviliza- tionthatcollapsed centuriesbeforethearrivalofEuropeans.The number and size ofanthropogenicsoil depositsin theAmazon remindone ofthe mulchingand compostingpracticesofintensiveEuropeanfarming,orthe centralvalleyofMexicopriortoconquest.Thedifferenceisthatindigenous Amazonians,throughthedeploymentofa specificallyAmericancroparse- 13.See,forexample,WilliamHoskins,TheMakingoftheEnglishLandscape(London:Hodder and Stoughton,1955);Elias Sereni,HistoryoftheItalianAgriculturalLandscape(Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversityPress,1997);andJohnStilgoe,CommonLandscapeofAmerica,1580to1845 (New Haven, Conn.:Yale UniversityPress,1982). 71
  • 10. LatinAmericanResearchReview nal ofmaniocand maize,appear to have been moresuccessfulthantheir Europeanpeasantcounterpartsingeneratingagriculturalsurplusesonsup- posedlymarginallands,atleastuntiltheIndustrialRevolution. Domesticatedforests,wild gardens. .. In short,ifwe thinkofthe Amazonas landscape,anarenaofagencyratherthana constrainingwilder- ness,we mightgetsomewhere. PREHISTORY One instinctivelydislikestheterm.IfthearchaeologyoftheAma- zon teachesanything,itis thehistoricalnatureofitsprehistory,thehalf- understooddynamicsofitsprogressionsfrominitialoccupationtoagricul- turalintensificationandtheriseandfallofcomplexsocieties.Butthereseems tobe no moreconvenientone-wordshorthandfortheimmensestretchof timebetweeninitialindigenouscolonizationand thefirstEuropeanincur- sionsinthesixteenthcentury.Precontactis equallyunsatisfactory,giventhe frequencyofcontactamongitspeoples,theextentofsettlementand trade, and thelargelyunreconstructablecomplexityofprehistoricexchange.It seems misleadingbut unavoidable to use a single termforsuch a long period oftime,agglomeratingtheminimalenvironmentalimpactsofthe firstsettlerswith the intensiveexploitationof floodplain and upland ecosystemsin thelateprehistoricperiod.Thatsaid,whatis knownabout theprehistoryoftheAmazon?14 More thanis oftenthought.Archaeologicalwritingon theAmazon oftenbeginswitha litanyofthegaps inknowledge:thepeculiarproblems posedbytropicalenvironmentsforpreservingorganicmaterialandartifacts, thehighcostsand discomfortinvolvedinfieldresearch,and thepaucityof properlydocumentedand excavatedsites,no morethantheodd colored pin on a verylargemap.15Withoutminimizingtheimportanceofgaps in theresearchliterature,I findthisconventionalpessimismtobe misplaced. ArchaeologistsworkingintheAmazon have been able tointerrogatea va- rietyofhistoricalsources:colonialand national-perioddocuments,mission records,accountsbyscientistsand travelers,and amateurand semiprofes- sionalexcavationsinthenineteenthand earlytwentiethcenturies.Fromall thesesources,scholarshave been able to extractusefulinformation,even 14. Recentreviews with detailed bibliographiesinclude Neil Whitehead, "Amazonian Archaeology:SearchingforParadise?A ReviewofRecentLiteratureand Fieldwork,"Journal ofArchaeologicalResearch4,no.3 (1996):241-64;Claudio Barreto,"BrazilianArchaeologyfrom a BrazilianPerspective,"Antiquity72,no.277(Sept.1998):573-80;and EduardoNeves,"Twenty YearsofAmazonian Archaeologyin Brazil (1977-1997),"in thesame issue, 625-32.The last two arerareand fascinatingreviewsinEnglishbyLatinAmericanarchaeologists. 15.A good exampleofthegenreis one ofthestandardtextbooks,S. Fiedel,Prehistoryofthe Americas(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1987),192-93. 72
  • 11. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON identifypromisingfieldsites.16Whenthemodernarchaeologicalliterature ofthelowlandsisviewedas a whole,mostprimaryresearchfromthe1960s on actuallytellsa ratherconsistentstory,withdifferencesamongindivid- ual researchersturningmore around points of detail than the broad chronologiesandlifewaysofprehistoricAmazonians,whichcommandwide- spreadconsensus.17ItisnowincreasinglyclearthattheAmazoniandatafit intoa widercontinentalpicture,supportingthefindingsofotherresearch inMexico,Chile,andnon-AmazonianBrazilthatpushthedatesforthepeo- plingofSouthAmericaback to thelate Pleistocene(before12,000B.P.), at least.The factthatthisrecordofconsistentarchaeologicalfindingsstretch- ingback overthirtyyearshas notbeen morewidelyrecognizeduntilre- centlyhas nothingtodo withthequalityoftheresearchperse butwiththe factthattheLatinAmericandatesand interpretivehypothesesdid notac- cordwiththeClovismodelforthepeoplingoftheAmericas,towhichmany U.S. archaeologistswere committed.18FindingsfromLatinAmerica (in- cludingtheAmazon) thatunderminedtheClovis model wereignoredor subjectedtounreasonableattack.19Thusa mistakenviewwas perpetuated thattheAmazon was marginaltoAmericanprehistory,a regionwherecul- 16.A discussionofthevarietyofsourcesavailable and an illustrationoftheirpotentialcan be foundinAnna Roosevelt,MoundbuildersoftheAmazon:GeophysicalArchaeologyonMaraj6 Island,Brazil(San Diego,Calif.:AcademicPress,1991),chap.2,"Methodand TheoryforAma- zonian Archaeology."A specificexample is theway HerbertSmith'saccountofthemiddle Amazon inthe1870shas guided modernresearcherstoterrapretasites;see note32. 17. This assertionrequiressome justification.The overview offeredherewould be con- testedin mostofitsdetailsbyBettyMeggers,who has excavatedwidelyinBrazil,Ecuador, and theformerBritishGuiana sincethe1940sand stillparticipatesactivelyindebatesinlow- land archaeology.Her lastsystematicfieldresearchintheAmazon,however,was inthelate 1950s.A subsequentgenerationofarchaeologistswenttothefieldinthe1960s,notablyDonald Lathrap,whose workheavilyinfluencedhistoricalgeographerssuchas WilliamDenevan. It is theirwork,togetherwiththatofAnna Rooseveltand otherssubsequently,on whichI base thisgeneralization. 18.The Clovis model arguesthattheAmericasweresettledvia land bridgesintheBering Straitand thatearlyAmericansarrivedon theNorthAmericanplains between11,000and 12,000yearsago. Foran exasperatedEuropeanand LatinAmericanperspectiveon theClovis debates,see Niede Guidon and B. Arnaud,"The ChronologyoftheNew World:Two Faces ofOne Reality,"WorldArchaeology23,no. 2 (1991):167-78.Itis worthnotingthatevenwithin U.S. archaeology,some researchersdissentedfromthe Clovis timescales.The best-known textbookforNorthand SouthAmericanarchaeologysuggestedthathumancolonizationof SouthAmericabeganas longago as 17,000B.P. See GordonWilley,AnIntroductiontoAmerican Archaeology(Englewood Cliffs,N.J.:PrenticeHall, 1971),2:29. 19.An interestingexamplewas a letterfromVanceHaynes,a prominentU.S. defenderof theClovis model,whichsuggestedthatseeds discoveredina cave siteintheBrazilianAma- zon thatyieldedinconvenientradiocarbondates mighthave been depositedbynaturalpro- cesses. See Science275 (28 Mar. 1997):1948.Given thatHaynes has spenthis professional careerintheU.S. SouthwestaffiliatedwiththeUniversityofArizonaand hismostsignificant fieldworkoverseaswas intheSahara Desert,hisgraspoftropicallowland ecologyrevealed an unexpectedbreadthofknowledge. 73
  • 12. LatinAmericanResearchReview turaldevelopmentwas heavilyconstrainedbythedifficultiesposed by a hostilenaturalenvironment. Thepicturethatemergesfromthearchaeologicalrecordgivesthelie tothisstereotype.The earliestundisputedradiocarbondatesfroma sitein thelowlands arefroma cave,Pedra Pintada,nearthetownofMonteAle- greinthemiddleAmazon.Theysuggestinitialoccupationbynomadicfor- agers subsistingon a combinationoffishingand fruit-gatheringaround 11,000B.P.20 Futureresearchis likelyto push thedate ofinitialhumanoc- cupationoftheAmazon muchfurtherbackward.The specificfruitsfound atPedra Pintadasuggestthatthemodernpresenceoftreespeciesadapted to disturbancein thearea can be tracedback to Pleistoceneoccupations. The oldestceramicsfoundintheAmazon aredecoratedfragmentsfroma middeninthesamegeneralareaand datefromaround7,500B.p.21 Thisfind predatesthe earliestAndean and Mesoamerican potteryby some 3,000 years,probablyconfirmsnorthernSouthAmericaas theearliestceramic- producingregionintheAmericas,andprovideshardevidencethattheAma- zon was occupiedbeforetheAndes.22 Giventhattheceramicsfoundweredecorated,earlierplainceramics mustremaintobe discovered.Theirpresencewould stronglysuggestthat atleastonthefloodplain,a transitiontopermanentsettlementsand a mixed economy,agriculturein combinationwithfishingand fruit-gatheringand probablywithmaniocas thechiefcrop,had alreadytakenplace in some locationsintheearlyHolocene (circa10,000B.P.). Theearliestclearevidence ofmaize cultivationcomes fromtheEcuadorianAmazon and dates from around6,000B.P., suggestingthatmaizecultivationspreadfairlyrapidlyinto theAmazon fromitsoriginsinCentralAmerica.23Pollenevidencefromthe samesitesuggestsa patternofshiftingcultivationoverthreemillennia,with agricultureintensifyingsignificantlyaround2,500B.P., togetherwithcon- siderableforestdisturbance.Thisfindingsuggeststhatone ofthecauses of Amazonian biodiversityin upland ecosystemswas adaptationto human disturbanceoverthousandsofyears.The levelofdisturbancewas intense atsomelocations.Continuousoccupationhasbeenconfirmedatone sitein thewesternBrazilianAmazon fromaround 8,000B.P. to theseventeenth century.24Morerecentresearchhas shownthatagriculturalintensification, 20.Anna Rooseveltetal., "PaleoindianCave DwellersintheAmazon: The Peoplingofthe Americas,"Science272 (19 Apr. 1996):373-84.See also the subsequent exchangesbetween Rooseveltand hercritics:"PaleoindiansintheBrazilianAmazon," Science274(13 Dec. 1996): 1823-26;and "Datinga PaleoindianSiteintheAmazon inComparisonwithClovis Culture," Science275 (28 Mar.1997):1948-52. 21.Anna Rooseveltetal., "EighthMillenniumPotteryfroma PrehistoricShellMidden in theBrazilianAmazon," Science254 (13 Dec. 1991):1621-24. 22.Meggershas arguedtheopposite. 23.See M. Bush,D. Piperno,and P.Colinvaux,"A 6,000YearHistoryofAmazonian Maize Cultivation,"Nature340 (27July1989):303-5. 24.Neves, "TwentyYearsofAmazonian ArchaeologyinBrazil,"628. 74
  • 13. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON oncethoughttobe confinedtothefloodplain,also occurredinterrafirme uplands: late prehistoricdeforestation,illustratedby aerial photography, has beendatedtobetweenA.D. 900and 1400intheUpperXingu'incentral Brazil.Thereindigenouspeoples lived in village sitesmuch largerthan postcontactvillages,combiningmaniocfarmingon a substantialscalewith fishing.25 Themostdramaticevidenceoflarge-scalelandscape creationcomes fromtwoothersources,bothlongknowntospecialistsbutwhosetruesignif- icanceisonlybecomingapparentinconjunctionwithmorerecentdiscover- ies.Thesesourcesaretheexistenceofcomplexridgedfieldsites,spectacularly evidentinaerialphotographs,andtheemergingscaleofanthropogenicblack- earthdeposits,terrapretadoindio,throughouttheAmazonbutdocumented bestinBrazil,Venezuela,and Colombia.26Theridgedfieldstypicallyoccur onthefringesoftheAmazonbasinproper,insavannazones liabletoflood- ingand dottedwithforestislands.One implicationis thatseveralsavanna areasintheAmazonmightbe anthropogenicinorigin.27Inatleastonearea, theislandofMarajo,prehistoricAmazonianspossiblymodifiedexistingridge topographytoirrigateona largescale,ratherthanconstructingridgedfields fromscratch.28Theridgedfieldsitesoperatedonanimpressivescale,around 50,000acresinLlanosde Mojos and 15.5squarekilometersinCanioVentosi- dad inVenezuela.Theywould theoreticallyhave beencapable ofsupport- inghundredsofthousandsofinhabitants.Whethertheyactuallydid so is opentoquestion,sincean unknowablebutconsiderableproportionofpro- 25. Michael Heckenberger,"Manioc Agricultureand SedentisminAmazonia: The Upper XinguiExample,"Antiquity72,no.277 (Sept.1998):633-47.He notes,"Xinguanocommunities existin intricateanthropogeniclandscapes formedin thenaturalenvironmentby thelong- termoccupationofspecificecologicalsettings,"p. 642. 26.Forridgedfieldsites,see WilliamDenevan, "TheAboriginalCulturalGeographyofthe Llanos de Mojos, Bolivia,"Ibero-Americana,no. 48 (1966);JamesParsons,"RidgedField Sites intheRio Guayas Valley,Ecuador,"AmericanAntiquity34,no. 1 (1969):76-80;and C. Spencer, E. Redmond,and M. Rinaldi,"DrainedFieldsat La Tigra,VenezuelanLlanos:A RegionalPer- spective,"LatinAmericanAntiquity5,no. 2 (1994):119-43.An earlydiscussionoftheirsignifi- cance can be foundinDonald Lathrap,TheUpperAmazon(New York:Praeger,1970),160-63. A veryusefuloverviewofthecurrentstateofknowledgeis ClarkErickson,"Archaeological MethodsfortheStudyofAncientLandscapes ofLlanos de Mojos intheBolivianAmazon," in ArchaeologyintheLowlandAmericanTropics:CurrentAnalyticalMethodsandRecentApplica- tions,editedbyPeterStahl(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1995).Forblack-earth sites,see Nigel Smith,"Anthrosolsand Human CarryingCapacityinAmazonia," Annalsof theAssociationofAmericanGeographers70,no.4 (Dec. 1980):553-66;M. Eden,W.Bray,L. Her- rera,and C. McEwan, "TerrapretaSoils and TheirArchaeologicalContextin the Caqueta Basin of Southeast Colombia," AmericanAntiquity49, no. 1 (1984):125-40; and William Woods,"Commentson theBlackEarthsofAmazonia," PapersandProceedingsofAppliedGeo- graphyConferences18 (1995):159-65. 27.Thetermanthropogenicmeans caused byhumans,whollyorinpart. 28.T.Myers,"AgriculturalLimitationsoftheAmazon inTheoryand Practice,"WorldAr- chaeology24,no. 1 (1992):82-97,esp. 91-92. 75
  • 14. LatinAmericanResearchReview ductionmusthavebeenfunneledintoregionaltrade.29Theridgedfieldsites maybe evidenceofincreasingdemographicpressureon resourcesor an increasinglysophisticatedpre-Columbianeconomygearedtowardproduc- ingagriculturalsurplusesfortradeand exchange,a probabilitylargelyun- exploredbyarchaeologists. The main crop grownon thesefieldswas manioc,possiblyinter- croppedwithmaize and squashes.30Save forthefactthatmaniocwas the maincultigenratherthanmaize,thefieldsbear a markedresemblanceto otherridgedfieldsystemsin Mesoamericaand NorthAmericain thelate prehistoricperiod.TheyalsosuggestthatsomeAmazonianpopulationsmay have achievedcomparablelevelsofdemographicdensity.Forexample,the populationdensitiescalculatedforLa TigrainVenezuelamatchthoseofcer- tainsettlementtypesfoundintheValleyofMexico.31Giventhecollapseof MarajoaraculturearoundthefourteenthcenturyA.D. and thedescription ofpalisades and largedefensiveworksin thefirstEuropean accountsof Amazon townsand villagesin thesixteenthcentury,an intriguingpossi- bilityis thatsomeAmazoniansocietiesmayhave enteredthesame cycleof agriculturalintensificationand eventualoverexploitationoftheenvironment thatprobablylaybehindthedeclineoftheMaya and theabandonmentof themoundcomplexesoftheMississippiValley Terrapretadepositsechoridgedfieldsystemsintheirimplications. Whiletheirexistencehas been notedby travelersand scientistssincethe nineteenthcentury,32theirsignificancewas notwidely realized untilthe 1980s.Even now themostbasic factsabout thenatureand distributionof thedepositsarestillbeingdebated:thereisconsensusontheiranthropogenic originbutonlittleelse.Whiletheirsystematicmappingisstillinitsinfancy, itisclearthatthenumberofdepositsintheAmazontotalsmanythousands. The mostdetailedmappingofterrapretadepositsin a singlearea,along theArapiunsRiverin themiddleAmazon,revealed"manyhundreds"of 29. Forexample,Denevan calculatestheridgedfieldsoftheMojos could have supported a populationof500,000,largerthanthecurrentpopulationoftheregion. 30.Pollenanalysis,thestandardtechniqueforreconstructingancientcroppingpatterns,is impossiblewithmaniocbecause itis propagatedbycuttingsand releasesalmostno pollen. Processingmanioc requirescomplicatedtechnology,however,and its presencecan be in- ferredfromthesematerialremains. 31. Spencer,Redmond,and Rinaldi,"Drained Fields at La Tigra,"126.Butsee thecaveats byBillWoods on calculatingpopulationdensitieson terrapretasites. 32.A detaileddescriptionofdepositsaroundSantaremand theway theywereknownand exploitedbylocal farmerscan be foundin HerbertSmith,Brazil:TheAmazonsand theCoast (London:SampsonLow,Marston,Searle,and Rivington,1879),chap.4. One ofthefirstmod- ern archaeologiststo work in theAmazon, PeterHilbert,immediatelynoted theirimpor- tance,butbecause he publishedin Portugueseand German,ittookdecades forhispioneer- ingworktopercolateintotheEnglish-languageliterature.See Hilbert,A ceramicaarqueoldgica da regidodeOriximind(Belem:Institutode Antropologiae Etnologiado Para,1955). 76
  • 15. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON separatesites.33Like ridgedfieldsites,theydate fromthelateprehistoric periodand areoftenassociatedwithceramicsand othertracesofhabitation. Theycan also be verylarge.Manacapuru',on themiddleAmazon nearthe townofAlenquer,was measuredatover2 kilometerslongand 400meters wide.34Terrapretadepositswereoncethoughttobelimitedtothefloodplain buthavenowbeenreportedinuplandsitesandinterfluvesas well,although upland depositstendtobe smaller.35 Intriguingly,althoughtheyhave been routinelydescribedas "mid- dens,"themajorityofdepositsappear notto have been villageor house- holdsitesbuttheproductsoflong-termmulchingand compostingofagri- culturalfields,evenin locationsofsandysoils and blackwaterriverslong consideredproblematicforagriculture.AlongtheArapiuns,one suchagri- culturallymarginalecosystem,hundredsofprehistoricterrapretadeposits arestillrecognizedand exploitedbymodernfarmers.Furthermore,itap- pears thateven afterabandonment,soil dynamicsresultinterrapretade- positsexpandingovertime.One researcherhas suggestedthattheyshould be regardedas approximating"morecloselya livingorganismthananinert fossil."36At least one well-documentedexample ofsoil-enrichmenttech- niques practicedbya modernAmazonian people,theKayapo ofsouthern Para,fitswiththeobservedpatternofterrapretadepositsand is connected withtheimprovementofclearedfieldsratherthanmiddenformationaround villages.37Similarly,the sixteenth-centurydescriptionsof thefieldsand settlementsof theTapajo people, liningthebluffsand shorelinearound whatis now thecityofSantarem,are consistentwiththeubiquityofterra pretadepositsintheregion.Again,oneis confrontedwiththeinadequacies ofthenature-culturedualisminthefield.Anthropogenicin originbutnot intheirgrowth,terrapretadeposits,liketheHuaoranipeachpalm,embody boththepracticaland theepistemologicalcomplexityofAmazonianland- scape history. Theimplicationsareimportant.Terrapretasitesmaybe a dangerous basisonwhichtoprojectprehistoricpopulationestimates,buttheyarecon- sistentwitha generalpictureofagriculturalintensificationinthelatepre- historicperiod,inupland ecosystemsas wellas onthefloodplain.38Incom- 33. J.McCann and WilliamWoods, "The AnthropogenicOriginand PersistenceofAma- zonianDarkEarths,"inConferenceofLatinAmericanistGeographersYearbook25,editedbyCesar Caviedes (Austin:UniversityofTexas Press,in press).Terrapretadepositsin theArapiuns riverbasin is thesubjectofMcCann's doctoralthesisinprogress. 34. GordonWilley,AnIntroductiontoAmericanArchaeology2:412. 35.Interfluvesrefertoupland areasbetweenrivers.As a map oftheAmazon basin makes clear,theinterfluveis a veryconvenientunitofdescriptionofsubregionsofAmazonia. 36.Woods,"Commentson theBlackEarthsofAmazonia," 162. 37. Susanna Hecht and Darrell Posey,"PreliminaryResults on Soil ManagementTech- niquesoftheKayap6 Indians,"inPoseyand Balee,ResourceManagementinAmazonia,174-88. 38.McCann and Woods, "TheAnthropogenicOriginand PersistenceofAmazonian Dark Earths,"inpress. 77
  • 16. LatinAmericanResearchReview binationwithwhatis knownoftheantiquityofhumansettlementin the Amazon,thenumberand wide distributionofterrapretadepositsstrongly suggestthatfewifanypartsoftheAmazon wereunoccupiedduringpre- history.Thebulkofthearchaeologicalrecordcomesfromriverinesites,and theliteraturecontainsa strongassumptionthattheintensiveexploitation ofthefloodplainrecordedin thefirstEuropean accountsin thesixteenth centuryreflectsthegreaterdesirabilityand ecologicalpotentialoftheflood- plain,as comparedwiththeuplandsandinterfluves.Thisinferenceisclearly trueup toa point,buttheemerging,albeitmorefragmentary,archaeological evidencefromtheuplandssuggeststhattheoppositionbetweenterrafirme and floodplainhasbeenoveremphasized.Farfrombeingmarginal,theup- landswerealso colonizedand underwentthesameprocessesofagricultural intensificationanddemographicconcentrationthatcanbe documentedmore extensivelyinthefloodplain.Upland populationdensitiesmusthavebeen lower,butthismayhavebeena reflectionoftheexceptionalenvironmental potentialofthefloodplainratherthananindicationofenvironmentalpoverty intheuplands. To takeone geographicalexample,considerthelargeinterfluvein thesouthernAmazonbasinboundedbytheheadwatersoftheXingu'tothe eastand theTapajostothewest.Althoughsomearchaeologicalstudieshave been done in thisarea,nota greatdeal is knownabout regionalarchaeol- ogy.Most ofthepublishedresearchon theregionis in Portuguese,little- knownoutsideBrazil.Anotherimportantcategoryofrelevantinformation existsin theformofunpublishedreportsand documents,whichare diffi- cultevenforspecialiststofindand evaluate.InboththeUpperTapajosand theUpperXingu',modernarchaeologicalresearchbeganinthe1950s.Other documentarysourcesprovidea basicoutlineoftheregionbacktotheseven- teenthcentury.39Inthisrespect,itis a typicalexampleofhow a largearea oftheAmazon (inthiscase,aboutthesize ofColorado) appears,ornot,in theliterature.Nevertheless,once again thebroadoutlineofeventsis clear. Althoughtheearliestradiocarbondatesfromsiteson theUpper Xingu'go backtoaroundA.D. 900,thissituationreflectsthelackofdetailedresearch 39. The missionsystemdid notpenetrateas faras theUpper Xinguand Tapaj6s untilthe latenineteenthcentury,thusdeprivingresearchersofone ofthemostusefulsourcesuntilrel- ativelylate.Butslaveraidersarrived,as did traders,forminga newmosaicofpoliticalalliances and conflictsbetweenneo-Europeansand indigenouspeoples intheregion.Thisoccurrence allows ethnohistorianstoreconstructtheregion'shistoryfromtheseventeenthcenturyonin somedetail.See thecontributionsinthesection"Amaz6nia Meridional"inHistoria dosIndios do Brasil,editedby Manuela Carneirada Cunha (Sao Paulo: Companhia das Letras,1992), 281-380.Additionalaccountswerewrittenbynineteenth-centuryscientists(HenriCoudreau fortheUpper Tapaj6s and Carl von den SteinenfortheUpper Xingu),and thefirstmodern anthropologicalaccountsofboththeUpper Xinguand theTapaj6s date fromthe1920s,by CurtNimuendaju. Specialistswill note thatthissequence of sources is typicalof upland Amazonia. 78
  • 17. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON ratherthanparticularlylateoccupation.The southernAmazonian plateau was colonizedatleast10,000yearsago and probablyearlier.40Much older datesthanthosefromtheXinguhavebeenobtainedfromtheUpperTapajos, althoughtheyhave notyetbeen published.Woodenartifactsfroma large terrapretadepositontheRatoCreek,a tributaryoftheTapajos,weredated toaround3,000B.p.41The significanceofthisdateis thatthesiteis located about30kilometersup a smallcreek,suggestingwidespreadoccupationof thearea,includingterrafirmeuplands,evenatsuchan earlyperiod. Sincethe1960s,theUpperTapajoshas becomethelargestinformal- sectorgoldfieldin theAmazon, and minersregularlyreportfindingce- ramics,wooden artifacts,and skeletalremainsinthecourseofexcavations, whichgenerallyresultinthedestructionofthesite.42Althoughno system- aticmappingofarchaeologicalorterrapretasitesintheUpperTapajos has yetbeen made,theregionis riddledwithboth.Thereis no reasontothink thathad goldminerscombedtheUpperXingu'withthesamethoroughness, a similarnumberofsiteswould nothavebeenfoundthere.Even giventhe unsystematicnatureofarchaeologyintheregion,itis evidentthatreason- ablycomplexsettlementexistedby theend oftheprehistoricperiod.The mostrecentsignificantpiece ofresearchfromtheUpper Xingu'describes verylargevillagesites(between30and 50hectares)datedaroundA.D. 1500. Thesesiteswereheavilyfortifiedthroughlarge-scaleearthworksand pali- sades and linkedtoeachotherbya complexroadsystem,an interestingex- ample ofnonriverinetransportnetworksin theprehistoricAmazon.43It seemsreasonabletosuppose thatthedefensiveearthworksareevidenceof large-scaleconflictwithgeographicallydistantadversariesandthereforealso ofatleastoccasionaltradelinkageswithdistantpeoples.44 Italso seemsreasonabletosuppose thatthereis a stronganthropo- genicelementin theregionallandscape. Prehistoricagriculturalfieldsin 40.MichaelHeckenburger,"Warand Peace intheShadow ofEmpire:SociopoliticalChange in theUpper XinguiofSoutheasternAmazonia, A.D. 1400-2000,"Ph.D. diss., Universityof Pittsburgh,1996. 41.AnnaRoosevelt,letterdated23Sept.1993.ThecollectionsweremadebyDr.AliciaDuran Coirollo,oftheMuseu ParaenseEmflioGoeldi inBelem,withtheassistanceoftheEuropean Commissionand ImperialCollege Consultants. 42.MyfieldworkwithminersintheTapaj6sbegan in 1989and includedfouryearsofcon- tinuousresidenceintheregionbetween1994and 1998.1saw thishappenmanytimes.Together withDr.Coirollo,I witnessedthedestructionofa prehistoriccemeterynearthecenterofthe townofItaitubain 1994bya municipalconstructioncrew.Manymineownerskeep a collec- tionofceramics,wooden artifacts,and bones thattheirminershave comeacross. 43.Heckenberger,"Warand Peace intheShadow ofEmpire."Forprehistoricroadnetworks in theAmazon, see W. Denevan, "PrehistoricRoads and Causeways ofLowland Tropical America,"in AncientRoadNetworksand SettlementHierarchiesin theNew World,edited by C. Trombold(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1991),230-42. 44.TheKayap6,one people oftheUpperXingu,engagedinraidingexpeditionsexceeding 400kilometersuntilfairlyrecently.See G.Verswijver,Club-FightersoftheAmazon:Warfareamong theKaiapoIndiansofCentralBrazil(Ghent,Belgium:Rijksuniversitiet,1992). 79
  • 18. LatinAmericanResearchReview theUpperXingI werelargeenoughtobe identifiedthroughaerialphotog- raphyand dwarfmodernfields.One ofthecontemporarypeoples ofthe UpperXingu,theKayapo,arerenownedforthesophisticationoftheirland- managementtechniques.45Thewell-documentedKayapo practiceofinten- sivemanagementofforestislandsinsavanna raisesa seriesofinteresting questionsabouttheculturaloriginsofcentralBraziliansavannalandscapes. Althoughprojectingcontemporaryland-managementpracticesintothepast is an elementarymistake,itis inconceivablethatculturescapable ofland managementon thescalerevealedbyMichaelHeckenberger'ssatelliteim- ages were notat least as sophisticatedin theirenvironmentalmanipula- tionsas thecontemporaryKayapo. Modernpracticescanthereforebe used as a baseline forevaluatingthepast. These supposedly marginalupland environments,then,wereunquestionablysettledformillenniabeforethe arrivalofEuropeansand supporteda muchlargerpopulationthanhas tra- ditionallybeen assumed fortheregion.46Theirecosystems,farfrombeing "natural,"formedinadaptationtohumaninterventionsinthelandscape. Scholarsalreadyknowthatthiswas thecaseinthefloodplain,thanks totheearlyEuropeanaccountsofAmazonianpeoplesand environmentsin thesixteenthcentury.TheEuropeanpresenceinthesixteenthcenturywas sporadicratherthanpermanentbutwas welldocumented.TwoSpanishex- peditionstraveleddown theAmazon,FranciscoOrellanain 1542and then Pedrode Ursu'aand Lope de Aguirrein 1561.Theiraccountsareavailable, togetherwiththesurvivingaccountsoftheultimatelyunsuccessfulattempts ofnorthernEuropeans(English,Dutch,and Irish)to establishsettlements inthelowerAmazonfromthe1550son.47Fora longtime,theSpanishsources especiallywereregardedas unreliable,fulloftheexaggerationstypicalof earlyconquistadoraccounts.They certainlycannotbe read as straight- 45. Heckenbergerreproducestwo extraordinarysatelliteimages oflarge-scaleprehistoric deforestationnearvillagesitesin "Warand Peace intheShadow ofEmpire,"100-101.On the Kayap6, see Hechtand Posey,"PreliminaryResultson Soil ManagementTechniques." 46. WilliamDenevan, in themostwidelyquoted estimateofprehistoricpopulationinthe Amazon, calculates0.2inhabitantspersquare kilometerof"interiorlowland forest"and 0.5 for"Braziliancentralsavannas,"thetwomostimportantenvironmentsintheUpper Xingu- Tapaj6s interfluve.See Denevan, "The AboriginalPopulation ofAmazonia," in TheNative PopulationoftheAmericasin 1492,edited by Denevan (Madison: Universityof Wisconsin Press,1992),205-34,230.Heckenberger'sworksuggeststhisfiguremustbe a seriousunder- estimateinthatitcompareswithan estimateforthefloodplainof14.6. 47. The chronicleoftheOrellana expedition,writtenin 1542by Gaspar Carvajal,was the firstEuropean accountoftheAmazon. A criticaleditionwithnotesand supportingdocu- mentsis TheDiscoveryoftheAmazon,editedbyJ.Medina (New York:Dover,1988).A chronicle oftheUrsua expeditionwas writtena yearaftertheeventby a participant.See F Vazquez, El Dorado:Cronicadela expediciondePedrodeUrsuayLopedeAguirre(Madrid:Alianza, 1992). See alsothecollectionofaccountsbyotherparticipantsinT.Ortiguera,"JornadadelMarani6n," BibliotecadeAutoresEspafioles206 (1968):217-358.ForEnglishand Irishsixteenth-centuryac- counts,see EnglishandIrishSettlementon theRiverAmazon,1550-1646,editedbyJ.Lorimer (London: HakluytSociety,1989). 80
  • 19. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON forwardethnographicdescription.Yetinmanyrespects,theydo chimewith theemergingarchaeologicalrecordofthefloodplain.On pointssuchas size and appearanceofsettlements,tradeproducts,foodstocks,agriculture,and naturalresourcemanagement,thereisa highdegreeofinternalconsistency betweenthetwoSpanishaccountsand otherEuropeansources. Theydescribea floodplainenvironmentunderintensiveexploitation: largestocksofmaniocstoredintownsand broadroadsleadingtoplanted fields,settlementsliningbluffscontinuouslyforseveralmiles,large-scale farmingofturtlesinpens,fisheries,swarmsofcanoes,andsomesettlements defendedby palisades and earthworks-forall theworld liketheUpper Xingu',againstwhoseinhabitantsthedefensescouldconceivablyhavebeen constructed.Perhapsthemostsuggestivefactis thattheUrsuta-Aguirreex- peditionwas someninehundredstrongyettraveledwithfewsuppliesand foundlittledifficultyin replenishingitsstocks,bytradeorforce,fromthe peoples encounteredalongtheway.Itseemslikelythatthefloodplaindid notsupportsimilarnumbersagain untiltherubberboom ofthelatenine- teenthcentury.Tothisday,inmanyareasofthevarzea,themoderninhab- itantsfarmterrapretapatchesand build theirhouses aroundancientmid- dens. Buttheyare fewerin numberthanthepopulationseen by Gaspar Carvajal in 1542,part of a landscape as thoroughlyformedas thatof Castile,and probablymoredenselypopulated. COLONIALISM AND AFTER Contrarytocommonassumption,a hostilenaturalenvironmenthad littletodo withthelatearrivalofEuropeansettlersintheAmazon and the patchyEuropeancolonizationoftheregionduringthecolonialperiod.Spain and Portugaltoan evengreaterextenthad limitedresourceswithwhichto runtheirimperialenterprises.Theyconcentratedtheireffortsontheregions thatofferedthemostimmediateeconomicreturns,as close as possibleto theiroriginallandfallsand penetrationroutes:theCaribbeanislands,the centralvalleyofMexico,theAndeanmines,and theplantationsofnortheast- ernBrazil.The Amazon thusbecame a peripheryby accidentratherthan predestination. Thingscould have turnedoutverydifferently.BythetimethePor- tugueseturnedtheirattentionnorthin theearlyseventeenthcenturyand finallymoved decisivelyagainsttheEnglishand theDutch,sugarplanta- tionshad alreadybeen establishedin northeasternBrazil.The districtof AlcantaraonthecoastofMaranhao,onthefringesoftheAmazonbasinand muchmorea partoftheAmazonthanthenortheastinenvironmentalterms, became fora shorttimean importantpartofthenortheasternplantation complex-yet anotherdemonstrationof fuzzyregionalboundaries.Pre- vailingwindsand currentsmade communicationsbetweenBelemand Lis- bon easierand quickerthanbetweenBelemand therestofBrazil,reflected 81
  • 20. LatinAmericanResearchReview inthefactthatnorthernBrazilwas ruledformostofthecolonialperioddi- rectlyfromPortugalratherthanas partoftheviceroyaltyofBrazil.48In othercircumstances,onecanimaginetherichalluvialsoilsofMarajoIsland ortheIgarape-MirimregionnearBelemortheestuariesoftheGuianas as importantplantationzones withintheAtlanticsystem.All have produced highyieldsofsugarcaneforoverthreecenturies,servingregionalmarkets intothetwentiethcentury.AndallareclosertoEurope,NorthAmerica,and theAtlantictraderoutesthannortheasternBrazil.Theyweremoremalarial and moresubjecttofloodingthantheNortheast,buttheirmarginalization withintheAtlanticplantationcomplexresultedmorefromthefactthatthe colonialmetropolihad limitedresourcesand otherprioritiesthanfromany environmentalbarriertocolonization.Wheninternaland externalprerequi- sitesmeshed,as theydid inMaranhaointhelateeighteenthand earlynine- teenthcenturies,Amazonianestuariesand varzeaswererapidlyconverted to plantationagriculturewithlittleproblem.The factthatthecottonand sugartheyproducedweresubsequentlydrivenoutofworldmarketswas againdue toexternalfactors,suchas competitionfromNorthAmericaand preferentialEuropeantariffsforCaribbeancolonies,ratherthanenvironmen- talconstraints.49 Butmarginalizationhas itsadvantages.In theAmazon,itcertainly improvedthequalityofcolonialdocumentation.Inbroadterms,inboththe Portugueseand theSpanishAmazon,theCrownconstructedan allianceof conveniencewiththemissionaryorders,particularlytheJesuits,Franciscans, Carmelites,and Mercedarians.Thesegroupsbecameone ofthetwoprinci- pal agentsofEuropeanexpansionintothelowlands overtheseventeenth and eighteenthcenturiesand lefta richliteraturebehindthem.50Theother agentswere thesmall numbersofEuropean settlersand entrepreneurs attractedordeportedtothelowlands,who competedwiththemissionsfor access toindigenouslaborin an extractiveeconomybased on Indianslav- ery.5lTheirefforts,in boththelong and theshortterm,transformedthe regionallandscape. Changes had alreadytakenplace even beforetheestablishmentof permanentEuropeansettlementintheearlyseventeenthcentury.Although 48.Fora discussionofcommunicationsbetweenBrazilandPortugal,seeA.J.R.Russell-Wood, "PortsofColonial Brazil,"inAtlanticPortCities:Economy,Culture,andSocietyintheAtlantic World,1690-1850,editedby F.Knightand P.Liss (Knoxville:UniversityofTennesseePress, 1991),196-239. 49. For an analysis of the late-colonialboom in Maranhao and its aftermath,see A. de Almeida, A ideologiada decadencia (Sao Luis de Maranhao: Institutode Pesquisas Sociais, 1983). 50.A comprehensivelistingofthemissionsourcesforthePortugueseand SpanishAma- zon can be foundintheannotatedbibliographyofD. Sweet, "A RichRealm ofNatureDe- stroyed:The Middle Amazon Valley,1640-1750,"Ph.D. diss.,UniversityofWisconsin,1974. 51. Sweetprovidesthemostcomprehensiveaccountofthemissionsystemand theAma- 82
  • 21. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON onlya smallminorityofindigenousAmazonians could actuallyhave laid eyeson a EuropeanbythetimethecityofBelemwas foundedin 1616,the economyand societyoftheAmerindianAmazon was alreadybeingtrans- formed.WhiletheSpanishexpeditionsmadeonlyfleetingvisits,by1616the Englishand Dutchhad alreadyestablisheda numberoftradingpostsand "factories"-grandnamesforcrudestockadesandhutsunderconstantdan- gerofattackfromEuropeanrivalsorindigenousenemies-in theestuaryand middlereachesoftheAmazon. The Spanishhad occupied theOrinocoes- tuarysincetheearlysixteenthcentury,and theDutchmade a vigorousat- temptto dominatetheinteriortradeofnorthernAmazonia fromSurinam afterbeingpushed outoftheAmazon estuaryin theseventeenthcentury. Fromtheseinitialcentersofdispersal,metalaxes,knives,guns,andfishhooks begantocirculatealonglong-establishedtraderoutesand newnetworksof ethnicallianceand antagonismcrystallizedbytheslavetradeand theavail- abilityofa neworderoftradegoods.Thesenewindigenousnetworkswere soon overlaidbythedevelopingnetworksofthemissionsystemoverthe next150 years.52Metal goods were acquired in exchangeforfoodstuffs, slaves,and thedrogasdo sertao.This extraordinarilylong listofproducts (usuallymistranslatedas comingfromtheforest)testifiesto thecompre- hensivenessofindigenousresourcemanagementand theavidityofEuro- pean markets:sasparilla,sassafras,vanilla (whichtheEuropeansencoun- teredintheAmazon forthefirsttime),wild cinnamon,cacau,nutmegand cloves,manateemeatand oil,turtleshells,meat,eggsand oil,feathersofall kinds,annato,tonkabeans,favabeans,timberspeciesbythescore,chinchona bark,tobacco,isinglass,rubber,waxes, cotton,twines,vines,hides,skins, cashewand Brazilnuts,gums,resins,caulks;and themyriadregionalprod- zonian economyduringthecolonialperiod.ForthemissionsystemintheSpanishAmazon, see A. Golob, "The Upper Amazon in HistoricalPerspective(Peru,Ecuador)," Ph.D. diss., CityUniversityofNew York,1982.For Bolivia and theLlanos de Mojos, see David Block, MissionCultureon theUpperAmazon:NativeTradition,JesuitEnterprise,and SecularPolicyin Moxos,1660-1880(Lincoln:UniversityofNebraska Press,1994).Scholarswritingin English have concentratedon theJesuits.The lack ofstudiesofothermissionaryordersis a signifi- cantgap in theliterature.For a less Jesuiticalaccount,unfortunatelyrestrictedto thePor- tugueseAmazon,seeAhistoriadaIgrejanaAmazonia,editedbyE. Hoornaert(Petr6polis:Vozes, 1992). 52.Therearemanyethnohistoricalstudiestracingtheseprocessesoverthecolonialperiod in differentpartsoftheAmazon. A concisesummaryofthepracticaland theoreticalissues involvedis Neil Whitehead,"EthnicTransformationand HistoricalDiscontinuityin Native Amazonia and Guayana,1500-1900,"L'Homme126-28,nos.13-14(1993):285-305.A landmark studyin theethnohistoryofthelowlands is Whitehead'sLordsoftheTigerSpirit:A Historyof theCaribsinColonialVenezuelaandGuayana,1498-1820(Providence,R.I.:Foris,1988).Two in- triguingdetailedreconstructionsofthematerialtransformationofindigenoussocieties,even withminimalphysicalcontactwithEuropeans,areN. Farage,As muralhasdossertoes:Os povos indfgenasno Rio Brancoe a colonizacao(Rio de Janeiro:Paz e Terra,1991); and B. Ferguson, YanomamiWarfare:A PoliticalHistory(SantaFe,N.M.: School ofAmericanResearch,1995). 83
  • 22. LatinAmericanResearchReview uctswithno translationtothisday,suchas guarana',urucum,andirobaoil, massaranduba,jutaicica,copaibaoil,ucuuibaoil,piassava,breu,estopa,tapi- oca,puxuri,bombonassa,tucumfibers,carnauibawax,ipecac,jatoba,jarina, and curare.53Thisfirstcolonialextractivistboom has longbeen overshad- owed bythemorefamousboom ofthenineteenthand earlytwentiethcen- turies,butitsenvironmentalconsequenceswerejustas dramatic. Firstcamea leap intheproductivityofindigenousagriculturecaused bytheinfluxofmetaltools,althoughitis uncertainwhetherthisdevelop- mentgreatlyincreasedtheactualamountofforestclearance.Extraproduc- tionwas certainlyneeded tomeettheEuropeandemandforfoodstuffs,but the Europeans were not presentin large numbersand rapidlyadopted maniocas thestapleoftheirdiet.Evidenceabounds oflarge-scaleprecolo- nialproductionofmanioc,as noted.Giventhattheindigenouspopulation was decreasingfromthesixteenthcenturyonwardand thattheacquisition ofmetalgoods was a powerfulmotiveforthediversionofindigenouslabor out ofagricultureintoextractivism,itis even possible thatthetransition fromstonetometalinvolvednoincreaseinforestclearance.New European crops,livestock,anddomesticatedanimalswereintroduced.Chickens,pigs, cattle,and guinea fowlbecame a partofeveryAmazonian village scene withina couple ofcenturies.Mostimportantwas a revolutionintheorien- tationoftradeand transportnetworksinthelowlands.Previously,thelaby- rinthineriversystemhad operatedtoconnectthefloodplainswiththeup- lands,and itwas upon thatinternalrelationshipthatthewholestructureof prehistoricsocietyand economydepended. WiththearrivalofEuropeans and theimplantationofan extractivisteconomy,theregionaleconomywas turnedinsideoutand reorientedtowardthecoast.Thetradelinksthathad integratedthelowlands withtheAndean highlandsformillenniawere ruptured,and the Amazon became more isolated withinthe continent whilea new networkofexternalrelationships-administrative,economic, and religious-tenuouslybegan tobindittoEurope. Thefirstindigenousculturespulverizedbyslavers,disease,and the missionsystemwerethereforethepeoples ofthevatrzea,whose successin colonizingtherichfloodplainenvironmentofthemainchanneloftheriver systemputthemsquarelyon themainexitroutefortheslaves and drogas do sertaoheadingforthecoast.Withina couple ofcenturies,thestretches oftheSolimoesandAmazonasfloodplainthathad boastedthehighestpop- ulationdensitiesintheAmazonbasininthesixteenthcenturywerereduced 53.Thislistwas compiledfromexportitemsappearingincolonialdocumentsreproduced inthefollowingsources:A. Carreira,A CompanhiaGeraldoGrao-Parde Maranhao(Sao Paulo: EditoraNacional, 1988);and A Amazoniana erapombalina,editedby M. de Mendonca (Sao Paulo: GraficaCarioca,1963);Dicciondriohist6rico,geographicoeethnographicodoBrasil(Riode Janeiro:ImprensaNacional,1922).Also consultedweremid-nineteenth-centuryexportrecords inthepresident'sreportstothelegislaturesofPara and Amazonas; see note56. 84
  • 23. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON toa largelyemptylandscape,enormousdistancesseparatingisolatedvillages and occasionalhomesteads.54 Butitwas notonlythefloodplainthatwas transformedbythecolonial economy.Drogas do sertaocame fromupland as well as floodplainenvi- ronments,and intherushtofindmarketablequantities,sustainabilitywas rarelya consideration.As timewenton,slavers,extractivists,and mission- arieswereall forcedto rangefurtherand furtherafieldto locatetheirre- spectiveproducts,as moreconvenientsiteswererapidlyexhaustedthrough overexploitation.In themodernperiod,theextractionofdrogasdo sertao (tropicalforestproductsorTFPs in theunlovelyspecialistjargon)has be- comesynonymouswithsustainableresourcemanagement.Butformostof theAmazon's history,extractivismhasresemblednothingso muchas strip- mining.Manyofthedetailsofthisextractivistassaultarelacking,butclearly someitemswerealreadyseriouslydepletedbythenineteenthcentury.55 ReasonablysystematicexportrecordsexistfortheBrazilianAmazon forthe1840son because theprovincialadministrationdepended on taxes on themovementofgoods ratherthanon incomes.56Accordingto these records,exportsofturtleand manateeproductswereminimalbythemid- nineteenthcentury;whentheyoccurredatall,theamountswereverysmall. Yetonefindsfrequentdescriptionsduringthecolonialperiodoflarge-scale exploitationofturtlesand manateesforbothdomesticand exportmarkets. Theseanimalswerenotablefortherangeofproductstheyprovided.Turtles yieldedfreshand saltedmeat,shellsforjewelryand combs,eggs,and turtle oil.The oil representeda majorindustryofthefloodplainduringthecolo- nialperiod,whenentirevillageswould decamptosandbarsforweeksata timetocollecteggsand produceoil atcertaintimesofyear.Manateesalso producedmeatand oil.Mexira,manateemeatcooked and preservedinits own fat,was also an importantexport.Ittookaroundtwo centuriesofin- tensiveexploitationtodecimateturtleandmanateestocks.Probablyonlythe diversionofall availablelaborintorubberextractionafter1850saved them fromextinctionalong themainchanneloftheAmazon.57Otherresources survivedthecolonialassaultwithlittleapparentproblem.Thesourcesnever 54. See, forexample,thedescriptionsoftheSolimoes in the 1820sin Spix and Martius, ViagempeloBrasil,vol. 3; and H. Maw,Journalofa PassagefromthePacifictotheAtlantic(Lon- don:JohnMurray,1829),chaps. 9-11. 55.Themostusefuloverviewofcolonialextractivism,based on a painstakingcompilation of primarysources,is R. Anderson,"Following Curupira:Colonization and Migrationin Para,1758to 1930,as a StudyinSettlementoftheHuman Tropics,"Ph.D diss.,Universityof California,Davis, 1976,esp. chap. 1. See also Sweet,"A RichRealmofNatureDestroyed." 56. FortheBrazilianAmazon, theseexportstatisticsare foundin annexesand fiscaldata set out in thereportsoftheprovincialgovernorsfromPara (seriesbeginningin 1833) and Amazonas (1852on).Theywillbe citedhereafteras Relat6rios,followedbyprovinceand date. 57. See Nigel Smith,"DestructiveExploitationoftheSouthAmericanRiverTurtle,"Year- bookofthePacificCoastGeographers36 (1974):85-102. 85
  • 24. LatinAmericanResearchReview mentionshortagesoffish.Dried and salted pirarucufwas an Amazonian codfishsubstitutethatservedboththeregionand exportmarkets.Yetthe nineteenth-centurysources,despiteconstantcomplaintsaboutfoodshort- agesandhighpricesinurbanareas,alwaysmentiontheavailabilityofdried fish.The issue appears tohave been a culturalpreferenceformeaton the partoftheupperclasses.Problemswiththeoverexploitationoffishstocks apparentlydid notoccuruntilthetwentiethcentury. Ifthecolonialeconomygreatlyinfluencedchangeinthelandscape, theothermajorinfluencewas colonial demography.The topicis contro- versial.Once againtheAmazon has sufferedfromstereotyping,inthiscase an assumptionthattheAmazonian experiencebroadlyreflectsthatofin- digenouspopulationselsewhereintheAmericas:inotherwords,theywere devastatedbyepidemicsinshortorder.As a numberofscholarshavepointed out,overenthusiasticmicrobe-centeredreadingsofLatinAmericanhistory oversimplifywhatactuallyhappened in thelowlands.58In contrasttothe dense and clusteredindigenouspopulationsintheAndean highlandsand Mesoamerica,who werethrownintoearlyand intensivecontactwithrela- tivelylargenumbersofEuropeansincircumstancesthatguaranteedfrequent and deadlyepidemics,Amazonianswerefewerinnumber,moredispersed, and lived in a largergeographicalarea. Because ofthesporadicnatureof earlyEuropeanpenetrationoftheAmazon,Amazonianscameintocontact withEuropeandiseaseslaterthanothernativeAmericans.Itistheonlypart ofthehemispherewherethisprocesscontinuestothepresentday,through cyclesofinfectiontravelingalongtraderoutes,withorwithoutdirectphysi- cal contactbetweenIndianand non-Indian. Smallpox exemplifiesthe specificitiesofAmazonian history.The sixteenth-centuryNorthernEuropean sourcesmake no mentionofsmall- poxintheAmazon.Nordo thesixteenth-centurysourcesfromtheOrinoco, althoughtheSpanishhad livedtheresincetheearlypartofthecentury.Yet itwas preciselyduringthisperiodthatsmallpoxwas decimatingtheIncas, Aztecs,and nativesoftheCaribbean islands. The apparentdelay in the arrivalofsmallpoxin thelowlands may be artificial.It could have been simplythattherelativelyfewEuropeanspresenthappenednottocomeacross any cases. Butthebalance ofprobabilityis thatsmallpoxtooka century longertoarriveintheAmazon.A numberoffactorsexplainthedifference: thesmallpoxvirus'sintoleranceofheatorbrightsunlight,thereorientation ofAmazoniantradeand communicationsaway fromtheAndes towardthe coast,and theirregularityofdirectcontactwithEurope duringthesix- teenthcentury.The firstrecordedcases ofsmallpoxin theAmazon date from1621,a directconsequenceofthePortuguesedecisiontomoveagainst otherEuropeans in theAmazon estuary.The disease was importedby a 58.A concisesummaryoftheissues hereis providedby Whiteheadin "EthnicTransfor- mationand HistoricalDiscontinuity,"288-91. 86
  • 25. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON shiparrivingfromnortheasternBrazil,wheresmallpoxhadbeenestablished sincethemid-sixteenthcentury.59Fromthenon,smallpoxwas partofthe social fabricoftheAmazon intothetwentiethcentury.Popular resistance tovariolationandvaccinationcontributedtoitslongevityand mortality,de- spitethefactthatthefirstrecordedvaccinationattemptsagainstsmallpox in LatinAmericawere made in theAmazon in 1729by a Carmelitemis- sionary.60Butitsspread,althoughrapid,was uneven.Bytheendoftheseven- teenthcentury,smallpoxhad movedalongthemainchanneloftheAmazon toreachtheJesuitprovinceofMaynas intheextremewestoftheAmazon basin.Ithad also reachedthemissionvillagesofLlanosde Mojosinpresent- day Bolivia,althoughitis sometimesdifficultto distinguishbetweenAn- dean and lowland originsofsmallpoxepidemicsin thewesternAmazon. Itslethalityduringthisperiodis undoubtable.Missionsourcesand admin- istrativecorrespondenceroutinelyprovidedharrowingdescriptionsofsuf- fering.Butafterabouta century,mortalityratesdeclinedsharplyas survivors developed resistanceand epidemicsbecame less frequent.All thedocu- mentationrefersto thefloodplain,butone can inferthatittooklongerto arriveintheuplands,and longestofall inthesouthernbasin,wheretrade routesand missionaryeffortswereless concentratedthanin thewestand thenorth. The generalpointhereis thatgreatvariationoccurredin thecycles ofdiseaseoutbreak,mortality,andresistanceovertimeandspace,withsome groupsclimbingback up thepopulationcurveat thesame timeas others enduredthehighmortalityoffirstcontactwithOld Worlddiseases. The exactsequence ofeventswas determinedbyseveralfactors,notjustphys- ical contactwithEuropeans:local ecology,participationintradenetworks and thecolonialeconomy,relationshipto themissionsystem,and so on. Amidstthiscomplexity,a fewgeneralpointsstandout.First,thefloodplain rapidlybecametheunhealthiestplace tobe foran indigenousAmazonian, and notjustfortheaccess itofferedto slaversand missionaries.Itwas a perfectsettingforthespreadofmalariaand otherdiseases withinsectvec- tors.61AlthoughindigenousAmericanstrainsof malaria may have pre- datedthearrivalofEuropeans,thefloodplainenvironmentensuredthatnew EuropeanandAfricanstrainsrapidlybecameendemic.Second,diseasewas closelylinkedto thegeographyofthemissionsystem,whichwas highly riverine.Themissionswereonlydubiouslyeffectiveatproducingconverts butwereveryefficientmachinesforpropagatingdisease.Theyconcentrated 59. Sweet,"A RichRealmofNatureDestroyed,"79. 60.Ibid.,88. 61.Leishmaniasis,endemicintheAmazon tothisday,is anotherexample.An Africandis- ease withan insectvector,itwas firstrecordedintheAmazon intheearlynineteenthcentury. It cannotbe a coincidencethata reasonablylarge-scaleAfricanslave tradeto theAmazon began in thelateeighteenthcentury. 87
  • 26. LatinAmericanResearchReview peoples ofdifferentethnicand geographicoriginina singlefloodplainlo- cation,ensuredregularphysicalcontactwithEuropeans,and disruptedin- digenousfarmingandresourcemanagementwithill-considered,oftencom- icallydisastrousattemptstoproducea pseudo-Europeanmonocultivating peasantry.62 Finally,the salient factof the impact of disease on indigenous Amazonians is thatithelped to produce a dramaticpopulationdecrease throughouttheAmazon by thenineteenthcentury.Disease had help,of course:a brutalslave economy,made morebrutalstillbytheviolenceand dislocationitbroughttoindigenoussocietiesthroughouttheinterior,even thoseneverwithintheambitofmissionaryordersor colonialstates.Nor did the decliningpopulations of missionvillages necessarilyreflectthe deathofall theabsentees:themissionswerealso factoriesfordetribaliza- tionand assimilation.Bythetimethemissionsystemcollapsed when the Jesuitswereexpelledbyjealous secularauthoritiesinthe1750sand 1760s, detribalizedIndianshad becomethelargestelementintheregion'spopu- lation.Theyformedthebasis forthemodernriverinemixed-racepeasants calledcaboclosinthePortuguese-speakingAmazonand riberefiosintheSpan- ishareas.Gentiobecamegente,butthereweremarkedlyfewerofthem.Com- paring sixteenth-centuryaccounts of the same stretchesof the Amazon withnineteenth-centurysourcesshowsthatwell enough.Numbersgames aredivertingbutembodytoomanydubious assumptionstobe sound. Let memerelysaythatwhenthearchaeologicalrecordand theearlyEuropean accountsarerunpastthefirstsemireliableestimatesofthenonindigenous populationoftheBrazilianAmazon in themid-nineteenthcentury,a con- clusionofliteraldecimationseemsdefensible. Theimpactonthelandscapewas paradoxical.Whiletheextractivist explosionwas causingseriousdamage toecosystemsinthefloodplainand uplands,depopulationwas allowingforesttorecolonizeareaswhereithad beencutbackinthelateprehistoricperiod,especiallytheupland savannas andthefloodplain.Thesewerepreciselytheareasthatwould be visitedand used as collectionsitesbynineteenth-centurynaturalscientistsand miscon- struedas virginandprimeval.Meanwhile,Europeanswereintroducingnew formsoflanduse withincreasingimpacts:newformsofplantationagricul- ture,notablycacau, sugar,and coffee,as well as cattleranching.The loca- tionofthesenew land uses was determinedbya combinationofenviron- 62.Foran overviewoftheimplicationsofmissionizationforthemissionized,see D. Sweet, "TheIbero-AmericanFrontierMissioninNativeAmericanHistory,"in TheNewLatinAmeri- canMissionHistory,editedbyErickLangerand R. Jackson(Lincoln:UniversityofNebraska Press,1995),1-48.Fora perspectivefromthehorse'smouth,see J.Daniel, TesouroDescoberto noRioAmazonas:AnaisdaBibliotecaNacionalvol.95 (Riode Janeiro:BibliotecaNacional,1975). See especiallyBook5 on agriculture.Daniel,a Jesuitpriest,spentdecades intheAmazon try- ingunsuccessfullytogetmissionIndians toadopt Portuguesefarmingmethodsand crops. 88
  • 27. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON mentalfactorsand economicgeography.Europeans realized at an early stagethatmanypartsofthelowlands containedgrasslandsand savannas well-suitedtocattleand horses.Bythemid-eighteenthcentury,mostofthe large-scaleenterprisesin theregionwere cattleranches:theMercedarian and Carmeliterancheson Marajo islandin theAmazon estuary,theJesuit herdsofLlanosde Mojos,thesettlerand missionestanciasoftheVenezuelan llanos,and theroyalfazendasoftheRio Brancoin thesavannas thatran fromRoraimainthePortugueseAmazon totheGuianese interior. Plantationagricultureduringthecolonial period,withtheimpor- tantexceptionofcacau,tendedtobe on ornearthecoastand was restricted tothealluvialsoilsofthefloodplainorlow-lyingterrafirme.Sugarand cot- tonin westernMaranhao and thecoastoftheGuianas wereexportcrops, butinothercases agriculturewas an adjuncttothedomesticeconomy,used toproducenotso muchsugaras rum.Thistradeitemand culturalweapon was so importantthattheCrownneverdaredorcaredtotaxit,and itssig- nificanceis matchedonlybyitsinvisibilityinthehistoricalrecord.63Until thearrivalofpermanentsteamnavigationintheAmazon inthe1850s,the onlyindustrialmachinesintheregionwereoccasionalsteam-powereden- genhosinsugarplantations. The one exceptionto thecrablikeclusteringofplantationsaround thecoast was theAmazon's mostimportantexportcroppriorto rubber, cacau.64Cacau plantationswereestablishedon thecoastaroundCayenne andtheestuariesofSurinamduringtheeighteenthcentury,usingwildcacau plantsbroughtback by extractivistexpeditions.Sugar provedmoreprof- itable.Bythemid-eighteenthcentury,themainfocusofcacau production had shiftedtothePortugueseAmazon,whereincreasingshortagesofwild cacau as extractivism-depletedstocksencouragedsettlerstoexperimentwith cultivation,aftersomediligentproddingbytheCrown.Theneedtoturnto plantationswas yetanotherindicationoftheimpactofcolonialextractivism inthat"wildcacau"-probably thedescendantsofcacau plantedand man- aged byindigenousAmazonians a fewcenturiesago-was verycommon 63.No overviewofAmazonian-Guiananplantationsystemshas been writtenforthecolo- nial period. Much usefulmaterialcan be gleaned fromR. Price's trilogyon theSaramaka maroonsofSurinam:FirstTime(Baltimore,Md.: JohnsHopkins UniversityPress,1983);To SlaytheHydra(Ann Arbor,Mich.: Karoma, 1983);and Alabi'sWorld(Baltimore,Md.: Johns Hopkins UniversityPress,1990).A usefulcomparisonoftheplantationsystemsofPara and FrenchGuiana canbe foundinC. de Cardoso,Economiaesociedadeemdreascoloniaisperife'ricas: GuianaFrancesae Pard,1750-1817(Rio de Janeiro:Graal,1984).On therumindustryand the interiortrade,see S. Anderson,"Engenhosna varzea:Uma analise do decliniode um sistema de producao tradicionalna Amazonia," in A fronteiraagrfcolavinteanosdepois,editedby P. Lena and A. de Oliveira(Bel6m:CEJUP,1990). 64.DaurilAlden,"TheSignificanceofCacau ProductionintheAmazon RegionintheLate- Colonial Period: An Essay in ComparativeEconomic History,"ProceedingsoftheAmerican PhilosophicalSociety120,no. 2 (Apr.1976):103-35. 89
  • 28. LatinAmericanResearchReview in thelower reachesoftheAmazon Riverand itsmain tributariesin the earlycolonialperiod.65 Bythelateeighteenthcentury,theonlysignificantinteriorplantation complexanywhereintheAmazonuntilthemodernperiodhad takenshape inthefloodplainandterrafirmebetweenthetownsofSantaremandObidos, on themiddleAmazon. Cacau continuesto be grownin themiddle and lowerAmazon tothepresentday,althoughitsprimacyintheexportmar- ketwas ended bythegrowthofcacau productioninsouthernBahia inthe late1800s.Thenineteenth-centuryscientificaccountsofthemiddleAmazon revealthatcacauestatesweretheonlyreasonablylarge-scaleeconomicenter- priseson thefloodplainpriorto therubberboom. The ranchingindustry, largelyunvisitedbyforeignersbecause ittendedtobe concentratedinthe moreremotellanosand savannas offthemainchanneloftheAmazon,was atleastas importantan industryintermsofvalue ofoutputand numberof people involved-and certainlymoreimportantintermsofenvironmental impact.Ranchingfirststoppedand thenreversedtheencroachmentofforest on savannas in manypartsoftheAmazon bythemid-nineteenthcentury, as theherdsgrewand urbanization,withitscarnivorousbourgeoisie,began toaffecttheregion. The growthofthecacau plantationcomplexthroughtheeighteenth centurywas significantnotjustinitsown terms.Itprovedtobe a vitalde- velopmentfortheextractivistsectoras well. Priorto thegrowthofcacau exports,theinternationallinkagesoftheAmazonianeconomyhadbeenten- uous at best.The difficultiesofcommunicationwiththeAndes afterthe disruptionofindigenoustraderoutesin theearlycolonialperiod meant thatthewesternAmazon could send onlylow-bulkand high-valueprod- uctsto Quito and Lima. SpanishrivalrieswiththePortugueselimitedthe extenttowhichthemainchanneloftheAmazon couldbe used as an export corridor.Thissituationpresentedalmostinsuperableproblemsforthenon- subsistencecolonial economy,in strikingcontrastto thescale ofagricul- turalproductionintheprehistoriceconomy.Even thelargesteconomicen- terprisesinthewesternAmazon,suchas theranchesand plantationsofthe Jesuitmissionsin Llanos de Mojos, werenotprofitableand depended on externalsubsidies.66In theeasternAmazon, althoughextractiveproducts abounded,theyoftenrottedon thequayside due tothelackofshipslink- ingBelemtoexportmarkets.In 1748notoneshipboundfora non-Brazilian portcalled atthecity,and justone in 1754and in 1758.67Shipsdid notcall predictablyuntilcacau productionbecameregularand large-scalewiththe growthofplantations.And because itwas a relativelylow-bulkcommod- ity,cargospace remainedtobe filledbyotherproducts,notablythedrogas 65.Ibid.,116. 66.Block,MissionCultureontheUpperAmazon,72-77. 67.Alden,"SignificanceofCacao Production,"133. 90
  • 29. ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE AMAZON do sertdo.68Withoutcacau plantations,theimpactofextractivismpriorto therubberboomwould havebeen considerablyattenuated. A good illustrationofthetransformationsinvolvedin theregional landscapeisthehistoryofAmazonianboatbuilding.FromGasparCarvajal toNationalGeographic,observershavenotedhow thepeculiarlyAmazonian combinationofriverswithinnumerablespecies oftimberhas made boat- buildinga central(albeitlargelyunstudied)featureofregionalcultureand economy.Colonialillustrationsshow thatthemeetingofEuropeanand in- digenoustraditionsofmarinedesignhad led tothegrowthofa shipbuild- ingindustryofremarkablesophisticationbeforetheend oftheeighteenth century.Thethousandsofrivercraft,largeand small,upon whichtheecon- omyand regionaltransportdepended wereall locallymade.69The Portu- guese Crown,attractedbytheabundanceofshiptimber,locatedone ofits threeBraziliannavalshipyardsinBelem,whichrapidlybecamethelargest- scale industrialenterpriseintheAmazon,witha workforceof370as early as 1771.Thisyardwas one ofthemostimportantcentersofnaval construc- tioninthePortugueseEmpire,buildingtwelveoceangoingshipsbetween 1801and 1822,includingtheforty-gunfrigateImperatriz.70This ship,re- centlycompleted,happenedtobe intheshipyardwhenitwas capturedby BritishmercenaryAdmiralThomasCochranein thefightingthatattended theindependenceofBrazilin1822.His expertassessmentofitsqualityand theexcellentlocalmaterialstheshipwrightshad toworkwithmade itsway intohismemoirsmanyyearslater.Cochranehad reasontoknowtheship well because he sailed itas a prizeback to England.71This and theother shipswere all made fromlocal timber,butas thenineteenthcenturypro- gressed,shortagesoftimberrestrictedtheshipyardtoproducingbargesand lightersforrivertraffic.Fromthe1850son,reportsoftheprovincialpresi- dentsofPara'and theimperialministryofthenavynotedtheneed tosend woodcuttingteamsas farafieldas theheadwatersoftheCapim and Acara' Rivers,over100kilometersfromBelem,tofindparticulartimberspecies.72 Thenextmajorshiptobe builtattheshipyard,thegunboatManaosin1881, had a deck and mastsmade ofimportedNorthAmericanpine,a striking demonstrationofthedenudingoftheAmazon estuaryofthehardwoods thatindigenousand Europeanboatbuildershad countedonforcenturies.73 68. Ibid.,132. 69.Forreproductionsofcolonialillustrationsofriverboatsandtheirmanufacture,seeAlexan- dreRodriguesFerreira:A Amaz6niaredescobertano s&ulo XVIII (Rio de Janeiro:Biblioteca Nacional, 1992),plate 21; and HistoriadosIndiosnoBrasil,editedbyM. Carneiroda Cunha (Sao Paulo: Companhia das Letras,1992),110-11. 70.Summaryoftheshipyard'shistoryand figuresarebased on theRelatoriodoMinistroda Marinha,1873(Rio de Janeiro:TypographiaAmericana,1873),27. 71.Thomas,EarlofDundonald, NarrativeofServicesintheLiberationofChili,Peru,andBrazil fromSpanishandPortugueseDomination(London:JamesRidgeway,1859),2:64-65. 72.See,forexample,Relat6rio,Para,1855(n.d.),p. 21;and Relat6rio,Para,1Oct.1859,p. 55. 73.Relat6rio,Para,15Feb. 1881,p. 36. 91
  • 30. LatinAmericanResearchReview CONCLUSION Whendoesmodemhistorybegin?Atdifferenttimesindifferentplaces, butfortheAmazonthedecade ofthe1850sseemsthelogicalchoice,ushered inbyCharlesGoodyear'saccidentaldiscoveryofvulcanizationand theini- tiationofregularsteamboatserviceson theAmazon in 1853.Thisreduced journeytimesfromweeks to days and morethanany othersinglefactor made theAmazon intoan integrated,relativelyefficientexporteconomy, completewithbanks,telegraphs,and opera houses. Withtheopeningof themainchanneloftheAmazon toshipsofall nationalitiesbytheBrazilian governmentin 1866,all themajorpreconditionsfortherubberboom were in place,althoughitwould notpeak foranotherthirtyyears.Once itdid, theboom set offa processoflandscape transformationthataccelerated, stopped,reversed,and thenacceleratedagain,repeatinginthecourseofa singlecenturythenonlinearsequence oftheAmazon's environmentalhis- toryoverthepreviousfifteenortwentythousandyears.Thisisanotherstory, tobe writtenseparately.Butitallows metohopethatthecenturyendingas I writeturnsouttobe a palimpsest,an imagefromwhichwe readthepast, notthefuture. REFERENCES ALDEN, DAURIL 1976 "TheSignificanceofCacau ProductionintheAmazon RegionintheLate-Colonial Period:An Essay in ComparativeEconomicHistory."ProceedingsoftheAmerican PhilosophicalSociety120,no. 2 (Apr.):103-35. ALMEIDA, A. DE 1983 A ideologiadadecadencia.Sao Luis do Maranhao:Institutode Pesquisas Sociais(IPES). ANDERSON, R. 1976 "FollowingCurupira:Colonizationand MigrationinPara,1758to1930,as a Study inSettlementoftheHuman Tropics."Ph.D diss.,UniversityofCalifornia,Davis. ANDERSON, S. 1990 "Engenhosna varzea: Uma analise do decliniode um sistemade produc,o tradi- cionalna Amaz6nia." In Afronteiraagricolavinteanosdepois,editedbyP.Lena and A. de Oliveira,217-29.Belem:CEJUP. BALEE, WILLIAM 1989 "The CultureofAmazonian Forests."In POSEY AND BALEE 1989,1-21. 1998 AdvancesinHistoricalEcology.New York:Columbia UniversityPress. BARRETO, CLAUDIO 1998 "BrazilianArchaeologyfroma BrazilianPerspective."Antiquity72,no. 277 (Sept.): 573-80. BATES, H. 1863 TheNaturalistontheRiverAmazons.London:JohnMurray. BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL 1873 RelatoriodoMinistrodaMarinha,1873.Rio de Janeiro:TypographiaAmericana. 1992 AlexandreRodriguesFerreira:A Amaz6niaredescobertanoseculoXVIII. Rio de Janeiro: BibliotecaNacional. BLOCK, DAVID 1994 MissionCultureontheUpperAmazon:NativeTradition,JesuitEnterprise,and Secular PolicyinMoxos,1660-1880.Lincoln:UniversityofNebraskaPress. 92
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