ANTHROSOLS AND HUMAN CARRYING CAPACITY IN AMAZONIA*

Authors


  • *

    Soil samples were collected under grants from the Center for Latin American Studies, Berkeley, a Dean's Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, and from INPA, Manaus. I am grateful to Italo Falesi for arranging to have the soil samples analyzed at the EMBRAPA and IDESP laboratories in Belém, Brazil. I would like to thank the Ford Foundation for providing me with a travel grant to conduct library research for the paper at Berkeley. I am also grateful to David Arkcoll, Woodrow Borah, Susanna Hecht, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on a preliminary version of the manuscript.

  • 1B. Meggers, “Environmental Limitation and the Development of Culture,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 56 (1954), pp. 80124; E. Ferdon, “Agricultural Potential and the Development of Cultures,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 15 (1959), pp. 119; and B. Meggers, Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971).

  • 2 I. Falesi, “Soils of the Brazilian Amazon,” in C. Wagley, ed., Man in the Amazon (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1974), pp. 201–29.

  • 3 J. Bennema, “Soils,” in P. Alvim and T. Kozlowski, eds., Ecophysiology of Tropical Crops (New York: Academic Press, 1977), pp. 29–55.

  • 4 F. Camargo, “Estudo de Alguns Perfis de Solo Coletados em Diversas Regiões da Hiléia,” mimeo (no date), 59 pp., in Embrapa library, Belem, Brazil.

  • 5 Falesi, op. cit., footnote 2.

  • 6 The geomorphological history of Amazonia is poorly understood. See, for example, N. Ab'Saber, “Problemas Geomorfológos da Amazǒnia Brasileira,” Atas do Simpósio sǒbre a Biota Amazǒnica, Vol. 1 (1967), pp. 3567; and H. Sternberg, “The Amazon River of Brazil,” Erdkundliches Wissen, Vol. 40 (1975), pp. 174.

  • 7J. Mabessone, “Sedimentos Correlativos do Clima Tropical,” Atas do Simpósio sǒbre a Biota Amazǒnica, Vol. 1 (1967), pp. 32737.

  • 8E. Cunha Franco, “As Terras Pretas do Planalto de Santarém,” Revista da Sociedade dos Agronomos e Veterinários do Pará, Vol. 8 (1962), pp. 1721.

  • 9 J. Faria, A Cerǎmica da Tribo Uaboí dos Rios Trombetas e Jamundá (Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1946).

  • 10G. Pranceand H. Schubart, “Nota Preliminar sobre a Origem das Campinas Abertas de Areia Branca do Baixo Rio Negro,” Acta Amazonia, Vol. 7 (1977), No. 4, pp. 56770; and G. Prance and H. Schubart, “Notes on the Vegetation of Amazonia I. A Preliminary Note on the Origin of the Open White Sand Campinas of the Lower Rio Negro,” Brittonia, Vol. 30 (1978), No. 1, pp. 6063.

  • 11 Bennema, op. cit., footnote 3, p. 32.

  • 12W. Farabee, “Explorations at the Mouth of the Amazon,” Museum Journal, Vol. 12 (1921), No. 3, pp. 14261; C. Nimuendaju, “Tribes of the Lower and Middle Xingú River,” in J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), pp. 213–43; P. Gourou, “Observações Geográficas na Amazǒnia,” Revista Brasileira de Geografia, Vol. 11 (1949), No. 3, pp. 355408; P. Hilbert, “A Cerǎmica Arqueológica da Região de Oriximiná,” Publicação do Instituto de Antropologia e Etnologia do Pará, Vol. 9 (1955), pp. 176; H. Sternberg, “Radiocarbon Dating as Applied to a Problem of Amazon Morphology,” Comptes Rendus du XVIII Congres International de Geographie, Vol. 2 (1960), pp. 399424; H. Klinge, “Beiträge zur Kenntnis Tropishcer Boden V. über Gesamtkohlenstoff und Stickstoff in Böden des Brasilianischen Amazonasgebietes,” Z. Pflanzenernähr. Düng. Bodenk., Vol. 97 (1962), No. 2, pp. 10618; G. Ranzani, T. Kinjo, and O. Freire, “Ocorrěncias de Plaggen Epipedon no Brasil,” Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz, Universidade de São Paulo, Piracicaba, Boletim Técnico, Vol. 5 (1962), pp. 1–12; W. Sombroek, Amazon Soils: A Reconnaissance of the Soils of the Brazilian Amazon Region (Wageningen: Center for Agricultural Publications and Documentation, 1966); and B. Meggers and C. Evans, “An Interpretation of the Culture of Marajó Island,” in D. Gross, ed., Peoples and Cultures of Native South America (New York: Natural History Press, 1973), pp. 39–47.

  • 13 Cunha Franco, op. cit., footnote 8.

  • 14C. Nimuendaju, “Os Tapajó,” Boletim do Museu Goeldi, Vol. 10 (1949), pp. 93106.

  • 15R. Pendleton, “Land Use in Northeastern Thailand,” Geographical Review, Vol. 33 (1943), pp. 1541.

  • 16 Sombroek, op. cit., footnote 12, p. 253.

  • 17 T. Myers, “Toward Reconstruction of Prehistoric Community Patterns in the Amazon Basin,” in D. Lathrap and J. Douglas, eds., Variation in Anthropology (Urbana: Illinois Archaeological Survey, 1973), pp. 233–52.

  • 18 A. Metraux, “The Tupinamba,” in J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), Vol. 3, pp. 95–133; C. Nimuendaju, “The Cawahib, Parintintin, and Their Neighbors,” in J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), Vol. 3, pp. 283–97; J. Steward and A. Metraux, “Tribes of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Montaña,” in J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), Vol. 3, pp. 535–656; Meggers (1971), op. cit., footnote 1, p. 98; M. Harner, The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls (New York: Anchor Press, 1973); and W. Smole, The Yanoama Indians: A Cultural Geography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976), p. 65.

  • 19 Only black earth with potsherds was sampled. At each site a composite sample was gathered from fifteen randomly selected sublocations and then mixed. Black earth was sampled to a depth of 20 cm. For characteristics of each site, see Table 2.

  • 20 Bennema, op. cit., footnote 3, states that Indian black earth occurs on kaolinitic yellow latosols but does not mention that it is also found in other soil types.

  • 21 N. Smith, Transamazon Highway: A Cultural-Ecological Analysis of Settlement in the Humid Tropics, unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1976.

  • 22 A 70 kg male daily eliminates, in feces and urine, 14.5 g of nitrogen, 2.5 g of phosphorus and 0.9 g of calcium; S. Cook and A. Treganza The Quantitative Investigation of Indian Mounds with Special Reference to the Relation of the Physical Components to the Probable Material Culture,” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 40 (1950), No. 5, pp. 22362.

  • 23R. C. Eidt Detection and Examination of Anthrosols by Phosphate Analysis,” Science, Vol. 197 (1977), No. 4311, pp. 132733.

  • 24 Sombroek, op. cit., footnote 12, p. 256.

  • 25I. Falesi, “Solos de Monte Alegre,” Instituto de Pesquisas e Experimentação Agropecuárias do Norte, Belém, Série Solos da Amazǒnia, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1970), pp. 1127.

  • 26B. Silva, J. Araújo, I. Falesi and R. Rěgo, “Os Solos da área Cacau Pirěra-Manacapurú,” Instituto de Pesquisas e Experimentação Agropecuárias do Norte, Belém, Série Solos da Amazǒnia, Vol. 2 (1970), No. 3 pp. 1198.

  • 27 Ranzani et al., op. cit., footnote 12.

  • 28 C. Wagley, Welcome of Tears: The Tapirapé Indians of Central Brazil (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 173; and L. Vidal, Morte e Vida de Uma Sociedade Indígena Brasileira (São Paulo: Editora Hucitec-Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1977), p. 174.

  • 29 Sombroek, op. cit., footnote 12, p. 253.

  • 30 N. Brady, The Nature and Properties of Soils (New York: MacMillan, 1974), p. 388.

  • 31 L. Castro Soares, Amazonia (Rio de Janeiro: International Geographical Union, Excursion Guidebook 8, 1956), p. 67.

  • 32P. Frikel, “Agricultura dos índios Mundurukú,” Boletim do Museu Goeldi, N.S., Antropologia, Vol. 4 (1959), pp. 135; and idem,Os Xikrin,” Publicações Avulsas do Museu Goeldi, Vol. 7 (1968), pp. 3119.

  • 33 N. Pereira, Panorama da Alimentação Indígena: Comidas, Bebidas e Tóxicos na Amazǒnia Brasileira (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria São José, 1974), p. 31.

  • 34C. Hartt Contribuições para a Ethnologia do Valle do Amazonas,” Archivos do Museu Nacional, Vol. 6 (1885), pp. 1174; F. Barata, “A Arte Oleira dos Tapajó,”Publicação do Instituto de Antropologia e Etnologia do Pará, No. 2 (1950), pp. 1–47; Cunha Franco, op. cit., footnote 8; and Nimuendaju, op. cit., footnote 14.

  • 35 Faria, op. cit., footnote 9; and Hilbert, op. cit., footnote 12.

  • 36 Camargo, op. cit., footnote 4; Gourou, op. cit., footnote 12; and Silva et al., op. cit., footnote 26.

  • 37 Gourou, op. cit., footnote 12; and Silva et al., op. cit., footnote 26.

  • 38 Sombroek, op. cit., footnote 12, p. 252.

  • 39 J. Medina, The Discovery of the Amazon According to the Account of Friar Gaspar de Carvajal and Other Documents (New York: American Geographical Society, 1934).

  • 40 Published by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, Rio de Janeiro (1971).

  • 41F. Katzer A Terra Preta,” Boletim da Secção de Fomento Agrícola no Estado do Pará, Vol. 3 (1944), No. 2, pp. 3538.

  • 42 Myers, op. cit., footnote 17.

  • 43 R. Lowie, “The Tropical Forests: An Introduction,” in J. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1948), Vol. 3, p. 17; and Myers, op. cit., footnote 17.

  • 44 C. Evans, “Lowland South America,” in J. Jennings and E. Norbeck, eds., Prehistoric Man in the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), pp. 419–50.

  • 45 Evans, op. cit., footnote 44.

  • 46 W. DeBoer, N. Smith, D. Haarmann, and M. Veale, “Notes on Collections of Ancient Ceramics from the Altamira Area, State of Pará,” mimeographed, n.d.

  • 47M. Simões, “The Castanheira Site: New Evidence on the Antiquity and History of the Ananatuba Phase,” American Antiquity, Vol. 34 (1969), pp. 40210.

  • 48D. Lathrap Aboriginal Occupation and Changes in River Channel on the Central Ucayali, Peru,” American Antiquity, Vol. 33 (1968), pp. 6279.

  • 49 D. Lathrap, The Upper Amazon (New York: Praeger, 1970).

  • 50R. MacNeish, “Early Man in the Andes,” Scientific American, Vol. 224 (1971), pp. 3646; H. Walter, Arqueologia da Região de Lagoa Santa (Minas Gerais): Indios Pré-Colombianos dos Abrigos Rochedos (Rio de Janeiro: Sedegra, 1958); O. Fonseca, “Parasitismo e Migrações Humanas Pré-Históricas,” in P. Duarte, ed., Estudos de Pré-História Geral e Brasileira (São Paulo: Instituto de Pré-Historia da Universidade de São Paulo, 1969), pp. 1–346; and B. J. Meggers, “Climatic Oscillation as a Factor in the Prehistory of Amazonia,” American Antiquity, Vol. 44 (1979), pp. 25266.

  • 51 Camargo, op. cit., footnote 4; and E. Galvão, “Elementos Básicos da Horticultura de Subsistěncia Indígena,” Revista do Museu Paulista, N.S., Vol. 14 (1963), pp. 12044.

  • 52 R. Carneiro, “Slash-and-Burn Agriculture: A Closer Look at its Implications for Settlement Patterns,” in A. Wallace, ed., Men and Cultures (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960), pp. 229–34; R. Carneiro, “Slash-and-Burn Cultivation Among the Kuikuru and its Implications for Cultural Development in the Amazon Basin,” in J. Wilbert, ed., The Evolution of Horticultural Systems in Native South America: A Symposium (Caracas: Sociedade de Ciencias Naturales La Salle, 1961), No. 2, pp. 47–67.

  • 53 C. Nimuendaju, The Apinayé (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1939), p. 6.

  • 54W. Denevan, “A Cultural-Ecological View of the Former Aboriginal Settlement in the Amazon Basin,” Professional Geographer, Vol. 18 (1966) pp. 34651; R. Carneiro, “Transition from Hunting to Horticulture in the Amazon Basin,”Proceedings of the 8th Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (Tokyo and Kyoto, 1970), Vol. 3, pp. 244–48; W. Denevan, “Campa Subsisitence in the Gran Pajonal, Eastern Peru,” Geographical Review, Vol. 61 (1971), No. 4, pp. 496518; J. Siskind, To Hunt in the Morning (London: Oxford University Press, 1972); D. Gross, “Protein Capture and Cultural Development in the Amazon Basin,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 77 (1975), pp. 52649; and E. Ross, “Food Taboos, Diet, and Hunting Strategy: The Adaptation to Animals in Amazon Cultural Ecology,” Current Anthropology, Vol. 19 (1978), No. 1, pp. 136.

  • 55N. Smith Utilization of Game Along Brazil's Transamazon Highway,” Acta Amazonica, Vol. 6 (1976), No. 4, pp. 45566; and N. Smith, “Human Exploitation of Terra Firme Fauna in Amazonia,” Ciěncia e Cultura, Vol. 30 (1978), No. 1, pp. 1723.

  • 56J. Carvalho, “Relações Entre os Indios do Alto Xingu e a Fauna Regional,” Publicações Avulsas do Museu Nacional, Vol. 7 (1951), pp. 316; K. Oberg, “Indian Tribes of Northern Mato Grosso, Brazil,” Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology, Publication, No. 15 (1953), 1–144; P. Bruzzi Alves da Silva, A Civilização Indígena do Uaupés (São Paulo: Linográfica Editǒra, 1962), p. 220; N. Chagnon, Yanomamo: The Fierce People (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968), p. 30; H. Baldus, Tapirapé: Tribo Tupí no Brasil Central (São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1970), p. 165; Harner, op. cit., footnote 18, p. 62; G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Amazonian Cosmos: The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the Tukano Indians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), p. 62; K. Taylor, Sanumá Fauna: Prohibitions and Classifications (Caracas: Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales, 1974), p. 23; Smole, op. cit., footnote 18, p. 163; B. Platt, “Tables of Representative Values of Foods Commonly Used in Tropical Countries,” Medical Research Council, London, Special Report Series, No. 302 (1962), pp. 1–46; and “Amino-Acid Content of Foods,” Food and Agricultural Organization, Nutritional Studies, No. 24 (1970), pp. 1–285.

  • 57G. Prance The Mycological Diet of the Yanomam Indians,” Mycologia, Vol. 65 (1973), No. 1, pp. 24850; O. Fidalgo and G. Prance, “Ethnomycology of the Sanama Indians,” Mycologia, Vol. 68 (1976), No. 1, pp. 20110; S. Beckerman The Abundance of Protein in Amazonia: A Reply to Gross,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 81 (1979), pp. 53360.

  • 58 S. Dreyfus, Les Kayapo du Nord, état de Pará-Brésil: Contribution à l'étude des Indiens Gé (Paris: Mouton, 1963); D. Werner Trekking in the Amazon Forest,” Natural History, Vol. 87 (1978), No. 9, pp. 4255; and R. Caron, Curé d'Indiens (Paris: Union Générale d'Editions, 1971), p. 278.

  • 59 “Energy and Protein Requirements,” World Health Organization, Technical Report Series, No. 522, pp. 1–118.

  • 60 D. Ribeiro, “Indigenous Cultures and Languages of Brazil,” in J. Hopper, ed., Indians of Brazil in the 20th Century (Washington: Institute for Cross Cultural Research, 1967), p. 238; J. Neel, “Lessons from a ‘Primitive' People,” Science, Vol. 170 (1970), pp. 81522; E. Arnaud and A. Alves, “A Extinção dos Indios Kararaǒ (Kayapó), Baixo Xingu, Pará,”Boletim do Museu Goeldi, Antropologia, No. 53 (1974), pp. 1–19; and E. Arnaud, “Os Indios Gaviões de Oeste: Pacificação e Integração,”Publicações Avulsas do Museu Goeldi, No. 28 (1975), pp. 1–86.

  • 61 S. Davis, Victims of the Miracle: Development and the Indians of Brazil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

  • 62 P. Lima, “Os Indios Waurá,”Boletim do Museu Nacional, N.S., Antropologia, No. 9 (1950), pp. 1–25; I. Goldman, The Cubeo: Indians of the Northwest Amazon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1966); and N. Chagnon, “Fission in an Amazonian Tribe,” The Sciences, Vol. 16 (1976), No. 1, pp. 1418.

  • 63E. Galvão, “Cultura e Sistema de Parentesco das Tribos do Alto Rio Xingu,” Boletim do Museu Nacional, Antropologia, Vol. 14 (1953), pp. 156.

  • 64 W. Denevan, “The Aboriginal Population of Amazonia,” in W. Denevan, ed., The Native Population of the Americas in 1492 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976), pp. 205–34.

  • 65 Wagley, op. cit., footnote 28, p. 272.

  • 66N. Smith, “Agricultural Productivity Along Brazil's Transamazon Highway,” Agro-Ecosystems, Vol. 4 (1978), pp. 41532.

  • 67 Prance and Schubart, op. cit., footnote 10.

ABSTRACT

The occurrence of numerous areas of black soil associated with potsherds in Amazonia has stirred controversy on the origins of the soil type and its significance in terms of precontact aboriginal population densities in the region. The theories on the origin of black earth are reviewed and it is argued that it is anthropogenic. An analysis of the physical and chemical properties of the soil type, based on widespread sampling, supports the anthropogenic argument. The abundance and depth of black earth sites indicates that Indian populations were dense and in many cases sedentary before the arrival of Europeans, even in interfluve areas.

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