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Impact of pre-Columbian 'geoglyph' builders on Amazonian forests

Watling, J., Iriarte, J., Mayle, F. E., Schaan, D., Pessenda, L. C.R., Loader, N. J., Street-Perrott, F. A., Dickau, R. E., Damasceno, A. and Ranzi, A. (2017) Impact of pre-Columbian 'geoglyph' builders on Amazonian forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114 (8). pp. 1868-1873. ISSN 0027-8424

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1614359114

Abstract/Summary

Over 450 pre-Columbian (pre-AD1492) geometric ditched enclosures ('geoglyphs') occupy ca. 13,000 km2 of Acre state, Brazil, representing a key discovery of Amazonian archaeology. These huge earthworks were concealed for centuries under terra firme (upland interfluvial) rainforest, directly challenging the 'pristine' status of this ecosystem and its perceived vulnerability to human impacts. We reconstruct the environmental context of geoglyph construction and the nature, extent and legacy of associated human impacts. We show that bamboo forest dominated the region for ≥6000 y and that only small, temporary clearings were made to build the geoglyphs; however, construction occurred within anthropogenic forest that had been actively managed for millennia. In the absence of widespread deforestation, exploitation of forest products shaped a largely forested landscape that survived intact until the late 20th century.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:69096
Additional Information:See also: Reply to Piperno et al.: It is too soon to argue for localized, short-term human impacts in interfluvial Amazonia http://www.pnas.org/content/114/21/E4120.full
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences

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