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Integrated palaeoecology and archaeology: a powerful approach for understanding pre-Columbian Amazonia

Mayle, F. E. and Iriarte, J. (2013) Integrated palaeoecology and archaeology: a powerful approach for understanding pre-Columbian Amazonia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 51. pp. 54-64. ISSN 0305-4403

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.08.038

Abstract/Summary

The old paradigm that Amazonia's tropical ecosystems prevented cultural development beyond small-scale shifting agricultural economies, that had little environmental impact, no longer holds true for much of Amazonia. A diversity of archaeological evidence, including terra preta soils, raised fields, causeways, large habitation mounds, geometric earthworks, and megalithic monuments, all point to considerable cultural complexity and environmental impacts. However, uncertainty remains over the chronology of these cultures, their diet and economy, and the scale of environmental impact and land use associated with them. Here, we argue that a cross-disciplinary approach, closely coupling palaeoecology and archaeology, can potentially resolve these uncertainties. We show how, with careful site selection (pairing small and large lakes, close proximity to archaeological sites, transects of soil pits) and choice of techniques (e.g., pollen, phytoliths, starch grains, charcoal, stable isotopes), these two disciplines can be successfully integrated to provide a powerful tool for investigating the relationship between pre-Columbian cultures and their environment.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:32935
Publisher:Elsevier

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