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Human-Environment Relationships in pre-Columbian Amazonia (2019-2021)

The dynamics of past human-environment relationships is one of the most relevant issues in archaeology today. Pre-Columbian Amazonia provides a case study of a long-standing debate on human-environment interactions. Recent groundbreaking discoveries of vast, pre-Columbian landscape engineering projects – monumental habitation mounds, ring ditches, causeways and canals – overturn the assumption that environmental constraints limited cultural development in Amazonia to simple semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyles, as practiced by indigenous peoples today. However, the processes by which these complex (stratified) societies emerged and declined, and their relationships to the environment, remain unresolved.
This project assembles an international, multi-disciplinary research team to integrate archaeological and environmental approaches and data to determine the relationships between the emergence and demise of stratified societies, food procurement strategies, and environmental conditions in pre-Columbian Amazonia.



                     field season (2019), archaeological excavations at La Punta (1)              field season (2019), archaeological excavations at La Punta (2)


We focus on three study areas in Southwest Amazonia with a broad spectrum of environmental conditions in terms of forest cover, soil quality, and flood/drought risk: The monumental mound builder area at the southeast of the Llanos de Mojos, the ring ditches area in the Iténez province, Bolivia and the shell mounds in Rondonia, Brazil.
There is increasing interest in cultural heritage and identity among present-day urban and rural Amazonian communities. We will therefore engage with the Ethnological National Museum in La Paz (MUSEF) and the archaeological Museum Kenneth Lee in Trinidad (Bolivia) to improve its educational value by incorporating best practice to develop stimulating, interactive museum exhibitions and accompanying booklets that can convey our project findings to a wide public audience. By engaging with urban and rural communities in this way, we hope to lay the foundation for longer-term impact by contributing to the wider socio-political issue of land-use conflicts between indigenous peoples, landowners, and conservationists.






Arts & Humanities Research Council

Fapesp Sao Paulo Research Foundation