Ancient Amazonian landscapes

Fortunate enough to study American history in college, some of the best classes I took (outside of WWII stuff) had to do with pre-colonial American history. ?What Native American culture and societies were like before being wiped out. ?It always amazed me how sophisticated and different they were. ?There was nothing savage about them. ?

The Haudenosaunee, or People of the Long House, those who now comprise the Six Nations (collectively the Iroquois Confederacy) in upstate New York (Mohawk, Onendoga, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida and Tuscarora) had a vast empire stretching all the way to Southern American. ?It was a matriarchal society in which no one owned a thing and shared everything. ?In essence their culture was the exact opposite of American society, and I’m inclined to think it may have been a better one. ?

It’s no surprise that Europeans often thought of the native inhabitants of North and South America as low intellectual savages. ?Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. ?A good book on this is 1491 by Charles Mann, in which he argues that American society before Europeans was just as technological; societies would remake the land as they saw fit, especially in the Amazon region. ?A new article in the New Scientist touches upon these remarkable discoveries. ?

The findings raise big questions, says?Susanna Hecht?of the University of California in Los Angeles.

For starters, it forces a rethink of the long-held assumption that these parts of the Amazon were virtually empty before colonisation. What’s more, it shows that the large populations that did inhabit the region transformed the landscape.

“What we find is that what we think of as the primitive Amazon forest is not so primitive after all,” Heckenberger told?New Scientist. “European colonialism wasted huge numbers of native peoples and cleared them off the land, so that the forest returned.”

What, then, did the primitive Amazon look like? That is a mystery, says Heckenberger. It is clear, though, that these large urban clusters reordered the entire landscape.

Research published in January revealed that was has long been thought of as the “original” New England landscape was in fact?created by British settlers in the 17th century.

There was plenty going on in North and South America before Columbus, the Conquistadors and other new world plunderers arrived. ?I’ve often argued that high school history is inadequate and that students would actually be interested in what was really going on at the time. ?Maybe that’s my idealism. ?[via]

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