On the basis of a Solomon Islands case study, we report that tropical rainforests hitherto perceived as untouched, pristine, virgin, etc., are actually sites of former settlement, extensive forest clearance, and irrigated/swidden agriculture. An unusually wide range of sources—rainforest ecology, forest classification and mapping, ethnobotany, land-use history, oral traditions, ethnographic and archaeological observations—supports our conclusions. These observations have bearings for contemporary perspectives on scenarios for rainforest regeneration after logging. They also force a revision of certain assumptions concerning Melanesian prehistory and historical demography, and indicate that interdisciplinary links between botany, archaeology and social anthropology are needed to achieve a better appreciation of rainforest dynamics.
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