Lost Cities of the Amazon


By Michael J. Heckenberger M. J. ヘッケンバーガー
English 日本語 日本語
W hen Brazil established the Xingu Indigenous Park in 1961, the reserve was far from modern civilization, nestled deep in the southern reaches of the vast Amazon forest. When I first went to live with the Kuikuro, one of the reserve’s principal indigenous groups, in 1992, the park’s boundaries were still largely hidden in thick forest, little more than lines on a map. Today the park is surrounded by a patchwork of farmland, its borders often marked by a wall of trees. For many outsiders, this towering green threshold is a portal, like the massive gates of Jurassic Park, between the present──the dynamic modern world of soy fields, irrigation systems and 18-wheelers──and the past, a timeless world of primordial nature and society. 1961年,ブラジルがシングー先住民族公園を設立した時,この保護区は現代文明から遠く離れたところにあり,広大なアマゾンのジャングルの南に埋もれていた。
Long before taking center stage in the world’s environmental crisis as the giant green jewel of global ecology, the Amazon held a special place in the Western imagination. Mere mention of its name conjures images of dripping, vegetation-choked jungles; cryptic, colorful and often dangerous wildlife; endlessly convoluted river networks; and Stone Age tribes. To Westerners, Amazonian peoples are quintessential simple societies, small groups that merely make do with what nature provides. They have complex knowledge about the natural world but lack the hallmarks of civilization: centralized government, urban settlements and economic production beyond subsistence. In 1690 John Locke famously proclaimed, “In the beginning all the World was America.” More than three centuries later the Amazon still grips the popular imagination as nature at its purest, home to native peoples who, in the words of Rolling Stone editor Sean Woods in October 2007, preserve “a way of life unchanged since the dawn of time.” アマゾンは世界的な環境危機において地球生態系を支える巨大な緑の宝石として注目を集めるずっと前から,多くの人の想像力をかき立てる特別な場所だった。アマゾンという名前を聞いただけで,したたり落ちる水や植物が生い茂ったジャングル,謎めいていて,色鮮やかで時に危険な野生の王国,網目のように入り組んだ河川,石器時代の部族などのイメージが浮かんでくる。
 1690年,英国の哲学者ロック(John Locke)は「世界の始まりはみなアメリカのようだった」という有名な言葉を残している。それから3世紀以上たった今でも,アマゾンは最も純粋な自然の残る場所と一般には見られている。Rolling Stone誌の編集者ウッズ(Sean Woods)が2007年10月に述べた言葉を借りれば,アマゾンは「太古の昔から変わらない生活」を送っている先住民のすみかだ。
Looks can be deceiving. Hidden under the forest canopy are the remnants of a complex pre-Columbian society. Working with the Kuikuro, I have excavated a network of ancestral towns, villages and roads that once supported a population perhaps 20 times its present size. Huge swaths of forest have grown over the ancient settlements, gardens, fields and orchards, which fell into disuse when epidemics brought by European explorers and colonists decimated the native peoples. The region’s rich biodiversity reflects past human intervention. By developing a mix of land uses, soil-enrichment techniques and long crop rotation cycles, the ancestors of the Kuikuro thrived in the Amazon despite its infertile natural soils. Their accomplishments could inform efforts to reconcile the environmental and development goals of this region and other parts of the Amazon. だが,見た目に騙されてはいけない。密林の下には先コロンブス時代の複雑な社会の遺構が隠されている。私はクイクロ族とともに古代の町や村,道路を発掘した。これらの古代集落は今の20倍の人々の暮らしを支えていたようだ。かつての住居や庭,畑や果樹園の上に,今では植物が生い茂り,広大な森ができている。この古代社会は西洋の探検家や移住者が持ち込んだ疫病によって現地の人口が激減した時,衰退が始まった。
“Nature Folk”
The most famous person to go looking for lost civilizations in the southern Amazon was Percy Harrison Fawcett. The British adventurer scoured what he called the “uncharted jungles” for an ancient city, Atlantis in the Amazon, replete with stone pyramids, cobbled streets and alphabetic writing. His tales inspired Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and perhaps the Indiana Jones movies. David Grann’s gripping recent book, The Lost City of Z, retraced Fawcett’s path before his disappearance in the Xingu in 1925.
アマゾン南部の失われた都市を探し求めた人物で最も有名なのはフォーセット(Percy Harrison Fawcett)だ。この英国人探検家は,古代都市アトランティスをアマゾンに求めて,彼のいう「地図にないジャングル」を探し回った。そこには石のピラミッドが立ち並び,石畳の道やアルファベットで書かれた文字があるといわれていた。彼の話はコナン・ドイル(Conan Doyle)の小説『失われた世界』や映画『インディ・ジョーンズ』のもととなった。最近グラン(David Grann)が発表した小説『失われた都市Z』は,フォーセットが1925年にシングー地域で消息を絶つまでの足取りをたどっている。
Actually, five German expeditions had already visited the Xinguano people and lands. In 1894 Karl von den Steinen’s book Unter den Naturvölkern Zentral Brasiliens, which described the earliest expeditions, became an instant classic in the fledgling discipline of anthropology. The book set the tone for 20th-century studies of Amazonian peoples as small, isolated groups living in a delicate balance with the tropical forest: “nature folk.” Later anthropologists often viewed the forest environment as uniformly inimical to agriculture; the soil’s poor fertility seemed to preclude large settlements or dense regional populations. By this reasoning, the Amazon of the past must have looked much like the Amazon in recent times. 実際,5つのドイツの探検隊がすでにシングーを訪れ,地元の部族に会っていた。1894年にシュタイネン(Karl von den Steinen)が初期の探検について書いた本『中央ブラジルの自然の民について』は,当時生まれたばかりの人類学という学問の名著となった。
But this view began to erode in the 1970s as scholars revisited early European accounts of the region, which talked not of small tribes but of dense populations. As Charles Mann’s best-selling book 1491 has eloquently described, the Americas were heavily populated on the eve of the European landings, and the Amazon was no exception. だが1970年代になって,西欧人がこの地域に関して書いた報告が再検討されるようになり,それまでの見方は徐々に崩れていった。そこには小さな部族ではなく,人口が密集していた様子について書かれていた。マン(Charles Mann)はベストセラー『1491—先コロンブス期アメリカ大陸をめぐる新発見』の中で,西欧人が上陸する前の南北アメリカは人口密度が高く,アマゾンも例外ではなかったと雄弁に述べている。