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Bracketing the Archaic Period in Central Brazil: building the chronology of Late Pleistocene megafauna and Middle Holocene rock art and human skeletons

Grant number: 19/15914-4
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: December 01, 2020 - November 30, 2022
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Archeology - Prehistoric Archaeology
Cooperation agreement: Weizmann Institute of Science
Principal Investigator:André Menezes Strauss
Grantee:André Menezes Strauss
Principal investigator abroad: Elisabetta Boaretto
Institution abroad: Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Home Institution: Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Assoc. researchers:Alex Christian Rohrig Hubbe ; Francisco William da Cruz Junior ; Nicolás Misailidis Stríkis


The time period at the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene is characterized by very important changes in human history. In the Levant (Middle East) one major change is the transition from hunter-gather societies to permanent settlements identified in the Natufian culture. This change might be the trigger to the start of agriculture in the subsequent period. Association of cultural changes caused by climate changes is a hypothesis that needs careful proof. In South America and specifically in central Brazil, the Late Pleistocene (LP) and Middle Holocene (MH) is detected with the extinction of the Megafauna and a fundamental change also in the lifestyle of humans. The latter indeed change from being cave occupants to more nomadic hunters-gatherers. This grant will be focus on the LP - MH in central Brazil trying to answer some of the major chronological questions for the understanding of the human occupation and its interaction with the environment. Central Brazil recorded ~12,500 years of non-continuous human occupation in cavities and open-air sites. For the early Holocene occupations, lithic technology, zooarchaeology, osteological markers and multi-isotopic analyses indicate groups of foragers, as hunters and gathers with low mobility. In particular no megafauna was part of the subsistence. This way of life, also known as the Archaic, was present in most South America for several thousands of years and is reasonably well documented and studied. However, the periods immediately before (i.e. Late Pleistocene) and immediately after (i.e. the Middle Holocene) are still poorly understood in Brazil. In we witness the MF extinction, and the development of art in the form of rock art. The absolute chronology of these very important events in Brazil is still very scarce due to the absence of well dated archaeological contexts of these periods. Within the collaboration between the Kimmel Centre for Archaeological Science (Weizmann Institute) and the University of São Paulo at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the Institute of Geosciences groups, we would like to build an initial chronological scheme based on state of theart approaches in radiocarbon dating for bone material and pigments. We will integrate U/Th method to date the calcite crust covering the rock paintings. Together with this, we would like to apply for the first time proteomic analysis - a method being developed at the Weizmann Institute - in tooth enamel in the MF to determine sex. If successful in this 2 years collaboration, the results will be the base for a larger research project that would include many collaborators and larger geographical regions, possibly extended to the entire South America archaeological record. (AU)