It was ethnographers, geographers, and ethnobotanists who recognized that human societies made significant, often purposeful impacts on their habitats in Amazonia (Anderson and Posey, 1989, Balee, 1989, Posey and Balee, 1989, Balick, 1984 and Smith, 1980). Their work was the first to make the point that the Amazon forest was in a sense a dynamic anthropic formation, not a virgin, natural one. They understood that there might have been an Amazon Anthropocene in prehistory. How has evidence of
the Amazon Anthropocene emerged through scientific research, and what are the methodological problems? Key sources on the Anthropocene in Amazonia were ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts, which gave evidence of purposeful indigenous land management and habitat alteration,
selleck as well as glimpses XL184 of the adverse impacts of colonization (Porro, 1994 and Oliveira, 1994), whose records of the transformation—large document archives including early photographs and narratives—have hardly been plumbed. Ethnographers were the first to show that tropical forest villages, far from ephemeral and small, were sizeable settlements that had existed for hundreds of years (e.g., Carneiro, 1960). Through ethnographers, ethnobotanists, human ecologists, and cultural geographers, indigenous people and peasants have been an important source of specific data on the cultural character of vegetation and the scope of human environmental interventions (Anderson and Posey, 1989, Balee, 1989, Balee, 1994, Balee, 2013, Goulding and Smith, 2007 and Henderson, 1995:17–20; Peters et al., 1989, Posey and Balee, 1989, Politis, 2007 and Smith et al., 2007). Most scientists rely on native people as guides to the habitats and sites, but this is not always acknowledged, and their information often not recorded or analyzed explicitly
as evidence. The ethnographic interviews and observations suggested that the groupings of dominant species in forests through much of Amazonia (Campbell et al., 1986, Macia and Tolmetin Svenning, 2005, Pitman et al., 2001 and Steege et al., 2013) are likely to be a human artifact (see Section ‘Anthropic forests’). Discoveries of large and complex prehistoric settlements and earthworks by archeologists helped refute the assumption that Amazonians had always lived in small, shifting villages by slash-and-burn horticulture. One important method has been surveys to map ancient human occupation sites and structures (Walker, 2012): transect surveys of regularly spaced test pits (e.g., Heckenberger et al., 1999); surface surveys along the rivers that attracted settlement (e.g., Roosevelt, 1980). But many ancient sites were destroyed by river action (Lathrap, 1970:84–87) or buried, so surface survey and shovel testing could not detect them.