*FRSEMR 71V. The Amazon: Ecology, Nature and Society in the World’s Largest Rain Forest

The Amazon rain forest of South America is the most diverse place on earth in terms of its rich and varied plant and animal life. Nonetheless, the Amazon is threatened today by climate change, illegal logging and mining, and a host of other forces that are diminishing the health and diversity of the forest and its people. This seminar will consider the Amazonian region from the past to the present, as well as its prospects for the future. We will explore such topics as how indigenous Amazonians have adapted to and made use of the resources of the rain forest from pre-European contact times, through colonial rule, and down to the present-day in Brazil and the other nations containing portions of the Amazon watershed. We will explore how Amazonian peoples have formed societies, made a living, understood the relationship between humans and animals, engaged in ritual and ceremonial practices for maintaining the forest and managing relations with neighboring peoples, and how the encroachment of outsiders is threatening the sustainability of the forest for its present-day peoples and the global environment as a whole. In addition to reading works about the Amazon River and its peoples, we will study the extraordinary collection of Amazonian archaeological and ethnological objects in Harvard’s Peabody Museum. Students will work with and research objects in the collections and write a series of short papers relating objects in the museum to the concepts, practices and beliefs encountered in the readings, seminar discussions, and films.



Gary Urton







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Freshman Seminars

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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2019-2020 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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