Here’s a snippet from a recent article in Popular Archaeology exploring the contemporary plight of Amazonian peoples and going further to pose the question: “how does the knowledge of the legacy of Late pre-Columbian groups inform modern conservation and sustainable agricultural practices for the future of the Amazon and other tropical regions of the world?” :
In a newly published article in Science Magazine, contributing correspondent Andrew Lawler reports in detail the evolving crisis of events and issues surrounding the recent activities of isolated forest tribes inhabiting the deepest regions of the Peruvian rainforest. What could be described as “throwbacks” to a largely bygone prehistoric era, these people have maintained a traditional “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle, separate from the modern economies that surround them in both Peru and Brazil.
Villagers living along the banks of the Curanja River in the rainforest of eastern Peru are reporting frequent sightings and “raids” from these mysterious forest people, says Lawler in the article. “A surge in sightings and raids in both Peru and Brazil may be a sign that some of the world’s last peoples living outside the global economy are emerging,” he writes.* He reports villagers complaining of stolen goods and destroyed homes, attributing the acts to these “naked ones” from deep within the forest.
To be sure, anthropologists and others have known of the forest peoples’ existence for years. But ethical questions have energized the issue of how and even if contemporary modern villagers and other representatives of ‘developed’ society should contact them. Scientists and health officials often mention, for example, their likely vulnerability to the transmission of disease that, because of their lack of immunity to common pathogens, could mean decimation of their groups to the point of extinction.
It’s easy to imagine—South America, before Columbus, was thought to have teemed with an indigenous population of anywhere between 30 and 100 million people. But in the decades following Columbus’ arrival in 1492, most of these people, along with much of their culture, vanished, due at least in part to disease from pathogens introduced by the incoming Europeans. As historical records and archaeology note, that was only part of a far more complex story of tragic interaction.
Read the complete article here, at Popular Archaeology.
More from this blog on pre-Colombian land management in the Americas: