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Human-environment relationships in Pre-Columbian Amazonia

Grant number: 19/07794-9
Support type:Research Projects - Thematic Grants
Duration: June 01, 2019 - November 30, 2022
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Archeology
Cooperation agreement: AHRC, UKRI
Principal Investigator:Eduardo Góes Neves
Grantee:Eduardo Góes Neves
Principal investigator abroad: Francis Edward Mayle
Institution abroad: University of Reading, England
Home Institution: Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Co-Principal Investigators:Paulo Eduardo de Oliveira

Abstract

One of the major research problems of South American Archeology is to explain the unequal process of emergence of social hierarchies, political centralization, and state along the continent. Throughout the twentieth century, archaeologists have proposed that the Central Andres would have been a kind of nuclear area where elements such as urbanism, sedentary life and agriculture would have developed before other parts, including the tropical lowlands. These ideas, however, have been reviewed in the light of research carried out in the Amazon Basin, which has shown, for example, that this region was an important ancient and independent center for plant domestication and ceramic production. In recent years, research in different parts of the Amazon has revealed the presence of large artificial earth structures that include monumental residential mounds, irrigation and drainage canals, landfills, ditches, roads, etc. In this context, a particularly interesting region is that of the headwaters of the upper Madeira River (Rivers Guaporé, Mamoré, Beni and Madre de Dios), which includes parts of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, as it is there that some of the old evidences of plant domestication and ceramic production on the continent, as well as the best examples of earthen architecture. A more detailed examination of the Archeology of the headwaters of the upper Madeira River, however, shows an interesting picture: while evidence of ancient occupations and ancient domestication of plants come from parts of the basin which were until recently covered by forests, evidence of monumental structures come from the areas characterized by the presence of periodically flooded savannas. This project intends to understand the correlation between environmental factors and political dynamics in the history of formation and transformation of hierarchical societies in at the headwaters of the upper Madeira River. Particularly, we aim to investigate the correlation between resource concentration and abundance and the emergence of political centralization through archaeological and paleoechological fieldwork in three different research areas characterized by distinct ecological settings: 1) periodically flooded savannas; 2) evergreen forests and 3) transitional areas between 1 and 2. Our working hypothesis is that contexts of resource abundance and dispersion are propitious to long-term human occupation but incompatible to the emergence of political centralization in the long run. The research will be carried out by a team of professionals with different backgrounds from the following institutions: Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of São Paulo, Institute of Geosciences of the University of São Paulo, Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences of the University of Reading, Institute of Archeology of the University of Reading, School of Archeology of the University of Oxford, Institute of Archeology of the University of Bonn and Institute of Geography of the University of Bern. (AU)

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