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Contingent Diversity on Anthropic Landscapes
Department of Anthropology, Tulane University, 7041 Freret St., New Orleans, LA 70118, USA
Received: 4 December 2009; Accepted: 25 January 2010 / Published: 1 February 2010
Abstract: Behaviorally modern human beings have lived in Amazonia for thousands of years. Significant dynamics in species turnovers due to human-mediated disturbance were associated with the ultimate emergence and expansion of agrarian technologies in prehistory. Such disturbances initiated primary and secondary landscape transformations in various locales of the Amazon region. Diversity in these locales can be understood by accepting the initial premise of contingency, expressed as unprecedented human agency and human history. These effects can be accessed through the archaeological record and in the study of living languages. In addition, landscape transformation can be demonstrated in the study of traditional knowledge (TK). One way of elucidating TK distinctions between anthropic and nonanthropic landscapes concerns elicitation of differential labeling of these landscapes and more significantly, elicitation of the specific contents, such as trees, occurring in these landscapes. Freelisting is a method which can be used to distinguish the differential species compositions of landscapes resulting from human-mediated disturbance vs. those which do not evince records of human agency and history. The TK of the Ka’apor Indians of Amazonian Brazil as revealed in freelisting exercises shows differentiation of anthropogenic from high forests as well as a recognition of diversity in the anthropogenic forests. This suggests that the agents of human-mediated disturbance and landscape transformation in traditional Amazonia encode diversity and contingency into their TK, which encoding reflects past cultural influence on landscape and society over time.
Keywords: contingency; landscape transformation; systems of traditional knowledge (TK); recognition of diversity; Amazon region; Ka’apor Indians
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Balée, W. Contingent Diversity on Anthropic Landscapes. Diversity 2010, 2, 163-181.
Balée W. Contingent Diversity on Anthropic Landscapes. Diversity. 2010; 2(2):163-181.
Balée, William. 2010. "Contingent Diversity on Anthropic Landscapes." Diversity 2, no. 2: 163-181.