kottke.org posts about amazonriver

Pre-European Amazonian civilizationSep 02 2008

Before European conquerers arrived, large areas of the Amazon River basin had been cleared away to make room for a network of towns and villages.

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."

I'm gonna plug 1491 again...the story above isn't news to anyone who's read this book, which argues that there was plenty going on in the New World before Columbus, et. al. arrived.

Somehow I never pointed to this articleJun 21 2007

Somehow I never pointed to this article from April about Dan Everett and his efforts to understand the language of the Piraha, an Amazonian hunter-gatherer tribe. Everett's position on Piraha linguistics is controversial because he believes their language doesn't adhere to Noam Chomsky's idea of universal grammar. "The Piraha, Everett wrote, have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for 'all,' 'each,' 'every,' 'most,' or 'few' -- terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition." Everett recently wrote a piece for Edge on the Piraha's lack of recursion and engaged in a debate with Steven Pinker and Robert Van Valin on the topic.

Suck it, Nile! The Amazon River mayJun 18 2007

Suck it, Nile! The Amazon River may now be the longest in the world.

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