Tupi, tapuia, horses, and cattle: European domesticates in the Native worlds in Dutch Brazil (1630-1654)


Native species of the Americas have always attracted the attention of European explorers and settlers, and the results of these encounters between the zoological knowledge of the Old World and the exotic creatures of the New World have already been the subject of several studies. The arrival of the Europeans in the Americas also triggered an encounter between indigenous peoples and unknown animal species introduced with the conquest. These encounters, which have all unfolded on this side of the Atlantic, remain less known than the impact of American fauna in Europe, given the scarcity of written records and the general disinterest on the daily dimensions of social life. There is, therefore, still much to be done in the search for an understanding of the arrival, diffusion, introduction, adaptation, circulation and use of exogenous or alien animals (European or African) among indigenous peoples in Brazil, in order to start building a complete overview of the material and symbolic impacts of these beings in Amerindian landscapes in Lowland South America. This research proposal therefore aims to explore sources available in the archives and libraries in the Netherlands, in order to initiate this broad project of investigation into the trajectory of introduced animals in Lowland South America, with special attention to the ways in which indigenous peoples in northeastern Brazil have known and eventually incorporated these beings into their worldviews and practices. The American fauna impressed Dutch scientists and artists who were in Brazil between 1630-1654. Amidst reports, drawings and paintings of the strange animals found by the Dutch, we can find testimonies of the diffusion and acclimatization of the adventitious species brought by the Portuguese in the previous period, including references to the presence and uses of these animals among native Amerindians. This scenario illuminates yet another unexplored facet of the colonial Atlantic world: if there was an intense traffic of knowledge and specimens from America to Europe, there was also an opposite flow which brought animals and the "technological packages" from Europe to the New World. This transit of animals had an enormous impact on the history of Brazil, including a significant relevance among native indigenous peoples.