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Imagining Human Alteration of Ancient Landscapes in Central and South America

Chapter

Abstract

This chapter explores the definition of "nature" by providing a review of the long-term alteration of natural ecosystems by humans in the context of specific examples from pre-Columbian Latin America, with special emphasis on lowland South America and Costa Rica. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been a keystone species in most natural habitats in the Americas since the end of the Pleistocene. This chapter argues that indigenous peoples of Latin America have played an essential role in shaping landscapes and ecosystems, both consciously and unconsciously, through the use of fire as well as a range of innovative agricultural technologies. It uses specific examples from pre-Columbian Latin America to explain how studies of archaeology, ethnohistory, and iconography have been useful in documenting the contributions of native populations to habitat alteration, how it has been experienced by these populations, and how it is interpreted by scholars.

Keywords

Tropical Forest Sixteenth Century Human Presence Keystone Species Human Alteration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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