Continuing advances in the archaeology of the Amazon have changed long-standing misconceptions about the rainforest as a homogeneous, nearly pristine environment occupied by small, scattered groups. Massive archaeological sites, deep deposits of anthropogenic soils, and earthworks found over thousands of kilometers now testify to the scale and intensity of past human impact in some parts of the Amazon. However, debate persists about the extent of such transformations, as distinct environments within the Amazon Basin (floodplains, savannas, seasonal forests) reveal different scales and intensities of pre-Columbian landscape modification. In that context, the discovery of hundreds of geometric earthen enclosures in the southern rim of the Amazon is proving that some areas that were previously considered virtually untouched forest may have been densely settled in the past. Although regional variations exist, most southern Amazonian enclosures appear to be defensive earthworks built at the turn of the second millennium ce, a period recognized by archaeologists as one of escalating population densities, migrations, and warfare across the Amazon Basin.
Jonas Gregorio de Souza
Juan Sebastián Gómez-González
Legal, illicit, and clandestine trade was fundamental for the social, political, and economic development of the Amazon basin during the colonial period. Since the second half of the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese establishments in this tropical region needed agriculture, livestock, and mining, but also exchanges of goods to ensure the stability and growth of missions and cities founded in their vast jurisdictions. Encomenderos, Indians, slaves, soldiers, bandeirantes, and Jesuits invigorated the illegal trade by establishing contacts through roads and tributary rivers of the Amazon River that linked different spaces through navigation. The scarce military presence in the border jurisdictions, especially between the province of Maynas and the captaincy of Rio Negro, in addition to the existence of gold mines, trafficking of manufactured goods, food, firearms, and other trade goods coming from both domestic and Atlantic markets, served as constant stimuli to strengthen the fraudulent business until the last decades of the 18th century. The prohibitions and monopolies decreed in the Luso-Hispanic laws, especially those stipulated in the treaties of limits, peace, and friendship verified in Tordesillas, Lisbon, Madrid, San Ildefonso, and Badajoz (from 1494 to 1802), were decisive to try to ensure the sovereignty and sociopolitical control in the Amazonian domains. However, the persistence of smuggling, as a complement to authorized trade and an indispensable resource for the Luso-Hispanic economies, would not have been possible without the complicity of governors, military, and astute Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who took advantage of corruption by encouraging participation in the illegal trade. This demonstrates that trade, smuggling, and fraud in those imperial margins were inseparable aspects of settlement and the defense of territories mutually stalked by Spanish and Portuguese vassals to the first decades of the 19th century.