Tropical Garden Cities: Archaeology and Memory in the Southern Amazon


  • Michael Heckenberger


Comércio Eletrônico. Sites de Compras Coletivas, Inovação


In Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902), Ebenezer Howard proposed a model of sustainable urban development as an alternative to industrial urbanism. A forerunner of the urban green movement, his model of galactic urbanism proposed tightly integrated networks of towns, each gravitating around a central public area, orbiting around a core town and linked by well-developed transportation and communication networks. This multi-centric form produced a subtle gradient between urban and rural areas. Recent archaeology and indigenous history in the Upper Xingu area of the southern Brazilian Amazon has revealed small clusters of settlements, or garden cities, composed of a central plaza settlement and four cardinally oriented satellite plaza settlements. These were tightly integrated by major roads and surrounded by mosaic countryside of fields, orchards, gardens, and forest. Far from stereotypical models of small tropical forest tribes, these patterns document carefully engineered landscapes designed to work with the forest and wetland ecologies in complex urbanized networks. Such multi-centric, networked forms were quite common, if not typical, in many parts of the pre-Industrial world, particularly major forest regions. This paper explores land-use and dynamic change in coupled human-natural systems, or bio-historical diversity, during the past millennium in the Upper Xingu. In particular, it examines how archaeology and historical memory not only provide means to consider what the Amazon was like 500 years ago but also have vital implications to urgent questions of sustainability and cultural heritage and rights in the face of rapid landscape change related to economic development in the southern Amazon, the "arc of deforestation".