The emergence of sedentism and agriculture in Amazonia continues to sit uncomfortably within accounts of South American pre-Columbian history. This is partially because deep-seated models were formulated when only ceramic evidence was known, partly because newer data continue to defy simple explanations, and partially because many discussions continue to ignore evidence of pre-Columbian anthropogenic landscape transformations. This paper presents the results of recent geoarchaeological research on Amazonian anthropogenic soils. It advances the argument that properties of two different types of soils, terras pretas
and terras mulatas
, support their interpretation as correlates of, respectively, past settlement areas and fields where spatially-intensive, organic amendment-reliant cultivation took place. This assessment identifies anthropogenic soil formation as a hallmark of the Amazonian Formative and prompts questions about when similar forms of enrichment first appear in the Amazon basin. The paper reviews evidence for embryonic anthrosol formation to highlight its significance for understanding the domestication of a key Amazonian crop: manioc (Manihot esculenta
). A model for manioc domestication that incorporates anthropogenic soils outlines some scenarios which link the distribution of its two broader varieties—sweet and bitter manioc—with the widespread appearance of Amazonian anthropogenic dark earths during the first millennium AD.