Originally, I put this post together for a Worldbuilding thread in another forum, regarding RWBY's world of Remnant.
But it's also relevant to Creation, or any other fantasy world where you might consider putting a human culture inside of a jungle. Because it means that you can think BIGGER than "hunter-gatherers".
Seeing the Garden in the Jungle
"Lately I’ve been lucky enough to teach permaculture courses on the Big Island of Hawai’i at La’akea Gardens. And at each course an odd thing happens. First, let me point out that La’akea generates all its own solar electricity, collects its water from rooftop catchment, uses composting toilets, recycles greywater, sheet mulches copiously, and has a mature food forest (intercropped with nitrogen-fixing trees, of course) hung so heavily with fruit that in five minutes I can fill a five-gallon bucket, in season, with avocados, citrus, abiu, papayas, or spike-skinned rolinias. And don’t get me started on all the different varieties of bananas and timber bamboo.
"But regularly I hear new students or visitors say, 'I’m disappointed that La’akea isn’t doing much permaculture.' The first few times that happened, I just stood there with my jaw hanging open, wondering how someone could miss something so obvious. However, I’ve finally figured out why people feel that way. It’s because La’akea doesn’t have many garden beds full of vegetables. And food is at the center of most people’s concept of permaculture. An obvious garden bursting with tomatoes, lettuce, and other favorite veggies screams 'food production!' in a recognizable, comforting way. To the untrained eye, even one in the middle of an off-the-grid, food-forest paradise, no vegetables equals no permaculture. It’s a preconception so firmly ingrained that it takes the first few days of a tropical design course to shake it loose. But vegetables—especially familiar temperate ones like broccoli, lettuce, and peas—can be difficult to raise in the tropics. Other foods, such as tubers and tree crops, are much easier and more appropriate to grow.
"Novice permaculturists aren’t the first to visit the tropics and mistake a lack of garden beds for a lack of food production. Until the late 20th century, western anthropologists studying both ancient and current tropical cultures viewed equatorial agriculture as primitive and inefficient. Archeologists thought the methods were incapable of supporting many people, and so believed Central and South America before Columbus—outside of the major civilizations like the Aztec, Maya, and Inca—held only small, scattered villages. Modern anthropologists scouted tropical settlements for crop fields—the supposed hallmark of a sophisticated culture—and, noting them largely absent, pronounced the societies “hunter gatherer, with primitive agriculture.” How ironic that these scientists were making their disdainful judgements while shaded by brilliantly complex food forests crammed with several hundred carefully tended species of multifunctional plants, a system perfectly adapted to permanent settlement in the tropics. It just looks like jungle to the naive eye.
Click the link to read more about why Slash And Burn farming isn't as daft as the White Man thinks!
Amazonian Orchard - Was the forest man-made?
"Of all the 'Jubious' theories we’ve researched, this one seems to have the strongest claim to respectability: it appears that a substantial part of the Amazon rainforest may have been created by human activity, as a giant orchard.
"Amazonian soil was once thought too poor to support agriculture, but it’s now known that at least 10% of it is miraculous stuff called Terra Preta (‘black earth’ in Portuguese) that contains charcoal, bone, manure and fragments of pottery. Up to 2 metres deep in places, and accepted as human in origin, it was created deliberately over a period of 1,500 years between 450 bc and 950 ad. Rich in nutrients that last thousands of years, it has remarkable regenerative properties - so much so that it’s been suggested as a solution to the infertile land of Africa. Brazilian farmers search it out and sell it as valuable compost - but always leave some in the ground, where it retains its power. There is enough of it to cover the whole of France, or twice the area of Great Britain.
"Clearing forest to make fields with stone tools is hard, so the first Amazonians opted instead to manage its immense variety, culling the trees they had no use for but retaining the fruits, nuts and palms, which brought better productivity than crops. Today, tourists are amazed at how you can just wander through the rainforest and pick fruit. Where the forest was to be cleared, they used fire, which produced soil-enriching charcoal.
"Most Amazonian land can’t be seen under the jungle. When cleared, precise geometric figures called geoglyphs emerge, 2,000 - 750 years old and the size of football fields. Google Earth was used to look for more: in two weeks they found 100. To build these would have taken vast numbers of people. BBC Four’s documentary series Unnatural Histories (2011) argued that an advanced civilisation of five to six million people flourished along the Amazon in the 1540s.
"Diseases brought by the Spanish, such as smallpox and flu, wiped out 90-95% of the population – by the 18th century the rainforest was empty. They left no buildings – but the soil and the geoglyphs are still there."
Scientists find evidence discrediting theory Amazon was virtually unlivable
"This patch of forest, and many others across the Amazon, was instead home to an advanced, even spectacular civilization that managed the forest and enriched infertile soil to feed thousands.
"The findings are discrediting a once-bedrock theory of archaeology that long held that the Amazon, unlike much of the Americas, was a historical black hole, its environment too hostile and its earth too poor to have ever sustained big, sedentary societies. Only small and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, the assumption went, could ever have eked out a living in an unforgiving environment.
"But scientists now believe that instead of stone-age tribes, like the groups that occasionally emerge from the forest today, the Indians who inhabited the Amazon centuries ago numbered as many as 20 million, far more people than live here today.
"'There is a gigantic footprint in the forest,' said Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo, 49, a Colombian-born professor at the University of Florida who is working this swath in northeast Peru.
"Stooping over a man-made Indian mound on a recent day, he picked up shards of ceramics and dark, nutrient-rich earth made fertile hundreds of years ago by human hands. 'All you can see is an artifact of the past,' he said. 'It's a product of human actions,' he said."
"In 15 years of work they have also found vast orchards of semi-domesticated fruit trees, though they appear like forest untrammeled by man.
"Along the Xingu, an Amazon tributary in Brazil, Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida has found moats, causeways, canals, the networks of a stratified civilization that, he says, existed as early as A.D. 800. In Bolivia, American, German and Finnish archaeologists have been studying how pre-Columbian Indians moved tons of soil and diverted rivers, major projects of a society that existed long before the birth of Christ.
"Many of these ongoing excavations follow the work of Anna C. Roosevelt. In the 1980s on Marajo Island, at the mouth of the Amazon, she turned up house foundations, elaborate pottery and evidence of an agriculture so advanced she believes the society there possibly had well over 100,000 inhabitants."
Is The Amazon A Man-Made Place?
"I just finished reading the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann which details the latest understanding of what the Americas were like the year before Columbus sailed. It is a fascinating read (the best book I've read since Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, & Steel) and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in history or human civilizations. It deals not only with the various cities and civilizations of the new world, and there were a lot more then most people know about, but also details how the land was intensively managed and altered by humans in order to bend it more to their liking. Far from living in harmony or balance with nature, Native Americans were actively terraforming and modifying the landscape throughout the Americas. (emphasis mine)"
"Today much of the eastern portion of North America is thickly growing forests yet when the first Europeans arrived they described an open-park-like land with scattered mature trees surrounded by grassland and native farming villages. Most of the Mayan homeland has salt in the groundwater and is subject to regular El Nino-associated droughts so the only way to get reliable irrigation water is to dig reservoirs (by hand since no draft animals were available) and then line those reservoirs with clay layers to prevent salt water intrusion. Thousands of these clay lined artificial lakes were created. The Andean cultures terraformed virtually every hillside with artificial terraces in order to maximize the productive farmland but all of these seem to pale in comparison to the modification Natives conducted in the Amazon basin."
The Amazon rain forest has been shaped by man, say scientists
I still remember a thread we once had on one of the official Exalted forums, for ways that Lunar Exalted could create sources of resources and infrastructure which were extremely useful to them and their followers while also not appearing as such to the Realm.
Halta wasn't very imaginative as far as canon examples go; posters came up with all sorts of better ideas. One example was icebergs with caverns carved into their bottoms which could only be accessed by swimming through the freezing cold, pitch black waters and finding the exact location of the hidden entrances. These were used as store rooms.
Another had specially bred flowers, I think, that formed teaching lessons with their scattered blossoms? I don't know, but it was excellent Sorcerous Working fodder.
Share your write ups of locations, quick characters and creatures
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