Four 60-minute discussion panels about a specific topic will be held during the EIAA. The discussion will be moderated by a selected scholar and two panellists will briefly argue their position (5 minutes) to open the discussion to the forum.
Sociopolitical Complexity in the Anthropocene
Organized by: Michael Heckenberger (University of Florida, Gainesville, USA)
What was the Amazon like in the 1492? How does it fit into the Anthropocene? Aside from its role as a global ecological regulator, or current deforestation and dams, the Amazon has not played much of a part in discussions of this major transition – when humans become drivers of climate change, regionally and globally. The Anthropocene draws our attention to more than global warming, and a new geological epoch, it changes how we think about humans, the Earth and the long-term dynamics of bio-cultural systems. Archaeology from across the region shows that vast areas of anthropogenic forests, artifacts of the large pre-Columbian settlements and multi-nodal settlement networks, created the patchy regional texture of forest today.These Amazonian civilizations were not out of stride with other major forest areas of the globe over the past millennium, including sparsely occupied areas and dispersed regional populations, although differing in most respects from classical “oasis” civilizations.This begs us to ask not what but who is the Amazon, not why it is important but to whom? This panel looks at what genuinely Amazonian complex societies looked like in 1492, how they managed and improved the land, including remarkable achievements in agroforestry and forest resilience, and what makes them “complex” or “urban.” Looking back to what happened to them over the past few centuries and how do they relate to the living peoples of the Amazon, we ask: what is the relevance of indigenous cultural heritage to today’s challenges, an archaeology of the Amazonian future?
Cultural material, language and population movements
Organized by: Gustavo Politis (Universidad Nacional de la Plata, Argentina)
This discussion space proposes a reflexion about the complex relationship between material culture and ethno/linguistic groups of Amazonia (Tupi-guaraní, Arawak, Ge, etc.) and how it has been used to reconstruct population dynamics in the lowlands of South America. Since the pioneering work of Max Schmidt and Erland Noderskiöld, archaeology and ethnography have used this relationship as a principal tool to study past population movements and to explain their modern configurations. However, being a dynamic relationship, it is not unequivocal and is subject to multiple cultural processes (among them, ethnogenesis plays a central role) which can create problems and difficulties. In this debate, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of correlating a certain material culture with defined ethno/linguistic groups in Amazonia and how this practice has been key in the interpretation of the past in lowland South America.
Mobilizing the past: Archaeology, memory and forest peoples in Amazonia
Organized by: Bruna Rocha (UFOPA, Santarém, Brazil)
Starting from the premises that people in the present are inextricably linked to the contexts in which archaeologists work and that science is political, this panel aims to reflect upon recent intersections between archaeological and social science research and Amazonian forest peoples’ struggles for recognition of rights. Such encounters have often been taking place within wider contexts of conflict and human rights violations spearheaded by the expansion of capitalist frontiers in the region. As Castañeda (2014) asked, how has our work been experienced by persons, communities or societies in Amazonia over recent years? What have been the effects of archaeological research? How can archaeology be relevant within such contexts and play a positive role in aiding oppressed minorities resist territorial expropriation?
Land use of the Amazon 6K
Organized by: Umberto Lombardo (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain)
The reconstruction of pre-Columbian land use patterns in Amazonia is a prerequisite in order to assess the possible influence that pre-contact deforestation and post-contact re-forestation had on global climate. It has been estimated that the pre-contact population of Amazonia was approximately 8.4 million, and that it fell by 95% after the spread of diseases that followed the arrival of the Spaniards (Dull et al., 2010). This sharp fall in population would have meant that large areas under cultivation before the conquest would have been abandoned and re-colonized by the rainforest. As Amazonia is one of the largest terrestrial players in the global carbon cycle, the re-forestation that followed the conquest could have sequestrated sufficient CO2 from the atmosphere to become an important factor in triggering the Little Ice Age (Dull et al., 2010). However, this reconstruction is highly controversial, as many ecologists believe that the area of Amazonia de-forested or altered by pre-Columbians was in fact relatively small. In the light of this lack of consensus about the extent of past anthropogenic disturbance of the Amazon’s forests and its effect on global climate, this forum aims to open a multidisciplinary discussion among archaeologists, historians, geographers and paleoecologists, in order to assess how and how much the land was used in pre-Columbian Amazonia.