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Footprints of the Forest: Ka'apor Ethnobotany - the Historical Ecology of Plant Utilization by an Amazonian People

Series: Biology and Resource Management

By: William L Balée (Author)

396 pages, Illus, figs

Columbia University Press

Paperback | Dec 1999 | #98973 | ISBN: 0231074859
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £30.50 $37/€34 approx
Hardback | Dec 1994 | #27561 | ISBN: 0231074840
Out of Print Details

About this book

Footprints of the Forest is the clearest and most comprehensive account to date of the relationship between an Amazonian people and their botanical environment.

Based on Balee's ten years of ethnological and botanical research among the Tupi-Guarani-speaking Indians, especially the Ka'apor, of eastern Amazonia, Footprints of the Forest documents the ways in which the Ka'apor use, manage, name, and classify many hundreds of plant species found in their habitat. From a historical and ecological perspective, Balee shows that Ka'apor ethnobotany represents an interpenetration of Amazonian culture and nature and thus constitutes a domain of scientific inquiry in its own right.

The substantive chapters explore the history of the Ka'apor and their present modes of land use, the Ka'apor's influence on the composition of fragile forests in their habitat, and Ka'apor forest management practices. Balee also discusses the nomenclature and classification of indigenous plants as well as the cognitive aspects of magical, medicinal, and poisonous plants.

Footprints of the Forest concludes with an explanatory framework for understanding the similarities and differences among the ethnobotanical systems of diverse Amazonian peoples and ten cross-referenced appendices, which will aid those readers interested in specific Amazonian plants and their native names, habitats, and exact uses by the Ka'apor.

"The most detailed and thorough analysis ever produced of indigenous plants and plant use in Amazonia [...] Balée's perspective skillfully integrates historical and ethnohistorical data with his contemporary research, yielding a finely nuanced view of Ka'apor ethnology and neatly meshed comparisons with a number of other Amazonian groups."
American Anthropologist

"The complete ethnobotany has yet to be written, but Footprints of the Forest [...] moves one step closer to that Sisyphean goal [...] I know of no other work as comprehensive as this one."

"This book provides a unique insight into the relationships between an Amazonian people and the botanical environment of the Amazon Basin."
Southeastern Naturalist


2.The Botanical and Ethnographic Setting
3. Ka'apor History
4. Activity Contexts of Plants and People
5. Medicine, Magic, and Poison
6. Indigenous Forest Management
7. Plant Nomenclature and Classification
8. Toward a Comparative Ethnobotany of Lowland South America

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William Balée is a professor of anthropology at Tulane University and the editor of Advances in Historical Ecology.

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