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Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems$
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Mark Aldenderfer and Herbert D. G. Maschner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195085754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195085754.001.0001

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Empirical and Methodological Problems in Developing a GIS Database for Yanomamö Tribesmen Located in Remote Areas

Empirical and Methodological Problems in Developing a GIS Database for Yanomamö Tribesmen Located in Remote Areas

(p.97) 6 Empirical and Methodological Problems in Developing a GIS Database for Yanomamö Tribesmen Located in Remote Areas
Anthropology, Space, and Geographic Information Systems

Ken McGwire

Napoleon A. Chagnon

Oxford University Press

For almost thirty years Chagnon has been studying the settlement patterns of a large cluster of remote Yanomamö communities in southern Venezuela, documenting population growth, mortality patterns, fissioning, dispersal, and pioneering of adjacent virgin areas of tropical forest. Approximately fifteen villages, with a current (1992) population of about 2000 individuals, have been studied. During a period of some 150 years, members of these communities have cleared and subsequently abandoned approximately five hundred sites whose geographical locations are very poorly known. In 1990 and 1991, Charles Brewer Carías, a Venezuelan naturalist, joined Chagnon in this research effort. Recent field research has resulted in geographic and demographic data suggesting that long-term warfare patterns may be contests over the apparently more desirable lowland areas, where economic activities are less costly in terms of energy and resources are more abundant or easier to obtain. Periodic village movements, provoked by hostilities with neighbors, require that relatively large lowland areas must be controlled so that groups can move around within them and maintain maximum distance from enemy groups. To do this, lowland villages must grow large and politically bellicose. When they fission, usually at a size of about 150 to 200 people, some of the resulting smaller groups are driven out and take refuge in more rugged but economically less productive highland terrain, where they adopt a less bellicose political stance toward their neighbors. Rates of mortality due to warfare, frequencies of abduction of women from neighbors, and other sociodemographic attributes distinguish highland from lowland communities in the overall area (Chagnon 1992). Geographic information systems are considered effective methods for organizing and analyzing the variety of spatial information required to test such hypotheses of relationships between environment and social processes. A GIS-based approach would allow maps of parameters relating to resource distribution and environmental characteristics to be compared to a rich and growing record of field observations. Analysis based on GIS would support data management requirements by allowing accurate identification and positioning of cultural and environmental features within a consistent map base.

Keywords:   AVHRR imagery, Earth Observing System (EOS), Geometric rectification, Global positioning system (GPS), MARNR-ORSTROM atlas, Multispectral scanner (MSS), Rubber sheeting, Side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) imagery, Thematic mapper (TM), Yanomamo

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