Fruit and nut tree species cultivated by ancient peoples still dominate parts of forest
H. ter Steege
Welcome to the somewhat civilized jungle. Plant cultivation by native groups has shaped the landscape of at least part of South America’s Amazon forests for more than 8,000 years, researchers say.
Of dozens of tree species partly or fully domesticated by ancient peoples, 20 kinds of fruit and nut trees still cover large chunks of Amazonian forests, say ecologist Carolina Levis of the National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, and colleagues. Numbers and variety of domesticated tree species increase on and around previously discovered Amazonian archaeological sites, the scientists report in the March 3 Science.
Domesticated trees are “a surviving heritage of the Amazon’s past inhabitants,” Levis says.
The new report, says archaeologist Peter Stahl of the University of Victoria in Canada, adds to previous evidence that “resourceful and