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The archaeology of the Middle Holocene and the beginning of landscape domestication in the Amazon

Grant number: 17/11817-9
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: October 01, 2017 - December 31, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Archeology
Principal Investigator:Eduardo Góes Neves
Grantee:Eduardo Góes Neves
Home Institution: Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo, SP, Brazil
Assoc. researchers:Anne Rapp Py-Daniel ; Carlos Augusto Zimpel Neto ; Fernando Ozorio de Almeida ; Francisco Antonio Pugliese Junior ; Gabriela Prestes Carneiro ; Guilherme Zdonek Mongeló ; Jennifer Watling ; Laura Pereira Furquim ; Myrtle Pearl Shock ; Silvana Zuse ; Thiago Kater Pinto ; Tiago Hermenegildo ; Ximena Suarez Villagran

Abstract

There is currently an intense debate about the role played by indigenous peoples in the past in transforming nature and creating landscapes in the Amazon. Most archaeologists accept the hypothesis that Amazonia has been deeply modified in the past, as can be seen from the distribution of large archaeological sites throughout the region. Such modifications became visible from about 2,500 AP, when the formation of anthropic soils, correlates of the establishment of sedentary and permanent occupations, known as terras pretas, began to form. In the early 16th century AD, when European colonization began, the Amazon was so anthropized as to be considered as composed of landscapes domesticated over centuries by indigenous peoples. Subsequently, with the extreme demographic reduction resulting from colonization, previously occupied areas were covered by forests. However, it is not yet clear when this process of domestication began: was it a sudden movement, which would explain the apparently sudden increase in the archaeological visibility of the elements associated with it from 2,500? On the contrary, would such a process have had a long history, going back to the Middle Holocene (7,000 - 3,000 BC) or even before? Such a question can not yet be answered with certainty because there are few regions in the Amazon with well preserved archaeological records that span the Middle Holocene. Among the few regions with continuous evidences of human occupation in the Amazon along the Holocene is the Upper Madeira River basin and its tributaries, in what corresponds today to the State of Rondônia. In addition to the long occupation sequences, the upper Madeira River basin also has other notable features that make it important for archaeological research: it is an independent center for domestication of plants such as peach palm, manioc and peanuts; it presents the greatest linguistic diversity among indigenous populations of South America and is also accepted as the supposed center of origin of the Tupi languages. This project asks for resources to continue our research with a multidisciplinary team in the upper Madeira. The objective is to open excavations on large surfaces on two sites where well preserved Middle Holocene contexts have been identified: Teotonio, an open-air site, and Monte Castelo, a fluvial shell mound. The project works with the premise that the results of research in southwestern Amazonia may have a value that exceeds the anthropology of the populations of upper Madeira, contributing to the formulation of broader hypotheses about the long history of human occupation of the Amazon basin. (AU)

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