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A Reflection on Archaeology and Sustainability in the Brazilian Amazon
1  University of Florida

Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Related Topics
Abstract: This paper addresses environmental, social and economic sustainability in the Brazilian Amazon from an archaeological perspective. This reflection follows three main themes: evidence of ancient indigenous environmental management and transformation, the productive dialogue between archaeologists and local residents resulting from public archaeology, and the economic and social benefits of the current production of objects inspired by archaeological artifacts. First, ecological conservationists denounce humans’ negative impacts on the Amazonian rainforest and advocate the preservation of a pristine forest. The discovery of multiple archaeological sites in the Brazilian Amazon demonstrates the region’s long history of dense human occupation and transformation. Archaeologists suggest that these environmental modifications helped preserve and even increase biodiversity rather than destroy it. Thus, archaeology can uncover sustainable ecological ways of living in the Amazon. Furthermore, sustainability efforts are not only linked to environmental preservation but also focus on more social facets through the recent emphasis given to public archaeology. Indeed, since 2002 the Historic and Artistic National Heritage Institute in Brazil made public archaeology a requirement for all contract archaeology programs. Thus, archaeologists now work with communities living on or close to archaeological sites. This practice enables archaeologists to include various interpretations of the archaeological record in their research and increases the communities’ knowledge about the indigenous past. Finally, local industries benefit from the creation of archaeological knowledge. Indeed, the production of handicrafts inspired by the material culture of past famous complex indigenous societies of the Brazilian Amazon recently emerged in the state of Pará. This not only has economic consequences; it contributes to identity construction. In sum, this paper discusses three themes to demonstrate how archaeological research can contribute to the present environmental, social, and economic development of the Amazon.
Keywords: Brazilian Amazon; Sustainability; Precolonial Archaeology; Public Archaeology; Handicraft