The Amazon rainforest

The Amazon rainforest has long been considered a natural and untouched relic of biodiversity but recent research shows that much of this forest landscape has been shaped by past societies.

Indigenous peoples have managed the land for millennia using the slash-and-burn technique to clear areas of forest and plant rotating food crops.

About 60% of the 5.5 million square kilometres of Amazon rainforest falls within the borders of Brazil. Manaus, state capital of Amazonas, was the only venue in this region to host matches for the 2014 World Cup. The new stadium, Arena da Amazônia, was built with special consideration for the surrounding forest, while its architecture resembles the straw baskets traditionally produced by indigenous people in the region.

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  • 1

    Palm-leaf basket; Krahô people; 20th century  

    Palm-leaf basket

    Indigenous peoples’ knowledge of the Amazon environment is evident from their ability to manipulate the forest’s natural materials. The enormous range of basketry techniques that exist within the region are used to make mats, clothing, hammocks, and containers like this one from Tocantins.

  • 2

    Headdress, or ‘coiffe’ ; Munduruku people; 19th century  


    This headdress, made of feathers mounted onto a fibre cap, comes from the Munduruku people who live in the Amazon basin near the Tapajos river.

    Indigenous groups today still make featherwork items like this headdress, known as a ‘coiffe’, continuing traditions that have existed for centuries.

  • 3

    Manio grater; Para; 19th century  

    Manioc grater

    Manioc, also known as cassava, is a plant native to South America with edible roots that provide a source of carbohydrate. It is one of the Amazon’s main food crops and has been cultivated here for several thousands of years.

    This wooden grater would have been used to prepare manioc prior to cooking.

  • 4

    Feather cap; Goais/Tocantins; 1948  

    Feather cap

    Approximately one third of the Earth’s bird species live in the Amazon rainforest. Many body ornaments and items of dress made by indigenous people, such as this feather crown, visibly connect the people to the environment around them.