chapter
Counterfeit paradise and indigenous realities
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As noted above, the counterfeit paradise thesis is that rigid environmental constraints precluded the emergence of *complex societies in Amazonia, and corollaries, such as the ‘protein shortage’ thesis, have long been used to argue that the character of lowland societies is virtually reduceable to an underlying set of natural imperatives. Where there is unimpeachable evidence to the contrary-as on the island of Marajó, for example (and in the area around Santarém and the upriver region of the Omaguas), it has been explained away through recourse to a theory of Andean diffusion (in keeping with the strict ‘highlands=complex/ lowland=simple’ dichotomy). Although challenged by Lathrap and his co-workers, for example, and more recently and vigorously by Roosevelt, the counterfeit paradise thesis is still the received-although vastly weakened-wisdom. The combination of new archaeological work, a closer reading of historical materials dating from the early years of conquest as well as the continued output of ethnographic work has seriously undermined the thesis, however, and a vastly more complex reconstruction of prehistorical and colonial Amazonia is underway (see Roosevelt 1994 for summary).