11981 - Archaeological Perspective on Amerindian Demographic Transition in Amazonia

So far, the widespread rise in Amerindian population in Amazonia has not as yet produced population densities comparable to those reached in the 1000-500 years before the first European contact. Therefore, theoretically, it could not yet be a cause for local environmental over-exploitation at levels higher than were the case at contact but very well could make desirable and profitable certain labor intensive land-use systems that were abandoned in those areas during the post-contact population decline. Nor could it produce organizational challenges more severe than were dealt with in the populous late prehistoric complex societies, but could very well motivate a return to some of the heterarchical and hierarchical organizational modes that were abandoned in many areas after the contact-period decline. These modes of socio-political complexity and land management are known through archaeology to have been very stable ones that lasted hundreds of years if not thousands, so they would be expected to provide a firm foundation for communities in the face of disruptions and challenges from the outside. Furthermore, many of the late prehistoric cultures in question developed horizon styles and traditions that served to link them with communities in other regions, facilitating productive supraregional interchange. This paper examines the evidence for the long-term history of population density in Native Amazonian societies, in relation to the history of land management, human organization, and supraregional relations and on that basis makes predictions about the immediate future of surviving communities there.

Keywords: population change, Amazonia, demographic transition, prehistory, ethnohistory

Author: Roosevelt, Anna C (University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Ud States of Am / USA)


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