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Evidence confirms an anthropic origin of Amazonian Dark Earths

Lombardo, U., Arroyo-Kalin, M., Schmidt, M., Huisman, H., Lima, H. P., de Paula Moraes, C., Neves, E. G., Clement, C. R., da Fonseca, J. A., de Almeida, F. O., Alho, C. F. B. V., Ramsey, C. B., Brown, G. G., Cavallini, M. S., da Costa, M. L., Cunha, L., dos Anjos, L. H. C., Denevan, W. M., Fausto, C., Caromano, C. F. , Fontana, A., Franchetto, B., Glaser, B., Heckenberger, M. J., Hecht, S., Honorato, V., Jarosch, K. A., Junquiera, A. B., Kater, T., Tamanaha, E. K., Kuyper, T. W., Lehmann, J., Madella, M., Maezumi, S. Y., Cascon, L. M., Mayle, F. E. ORCID:, McKey, D., Moraes, B., Morcote-Rios, G., Barbosa, C. A. P., Magalhaes, M. P., Prestes-Carneiro, G., Pugliese, F., Pupim, F. N., Raczka, M. F. ORCID:, Py-Daniel, A. R., Riris, P., da Rocha, B. C., Rodrigues, L., Rostain, S., Macedo, R. S., Shock, M. P., Sprafke, T., Bassi, F. S., Valle, R., Vidal-Torrado, P., Villagrán, X. S., Watling, J., Weber, S. L. and Teixeira, W. G. (2022) Evidence confirms an anthropic origin of Amazonian Dark Earths. Nature Communications, 13 (1). 3444. ISSN 2041-1723

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-31064-2


First described over 120 years ago in Brazil, Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs) are expanses of dark soil that are exceptionally fertile and contain large quantities of archaeological artefacts. The elevated fertility of the dark and often deep A horizon of ADEs is widely regarded as an outcome of preColumbian human influence. Archaeological research provides clear evidence that their widespread formation in lowland South America was concentrated in the Late Holocene, an outcome of sharp human population growth that peaked towards 1000 BP. In their recent paper Silva et al. argue that the higher fertility of ADEs is principally a result of fluvial deposition and, as a corollary, that pre-Columbian peoples just made use of these locales, contributing little to their enhanced nutrient status. Soil formation is inherently complex and often difficult to interpret, requiring a combination of geochemical data, stratigraphy, and dating. Although Silva et al. use this combination of methods to make their case, their hypothesis, based on the analysis of a single ADE site and its immediate surroundings (Caldeirão, see maps in Silva et al.), is too limited to distinguish among the multiple possible mechanisms for ADE formation. Moreover, it disregards or misreads a wealth of evidence produced by archaeologists, soil scientists, geographers and anthropologists, showing that ADEs are anthropic soils formed on land surfaces enriched by inputs associated with pre-Columbian sedentary settlement. To be accepted, and be pertinent at a regional level, Silva et al.’s hypothesis would need to be supported by solid evidence (from numerous ADE sites), which we demonstrate is lacking.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:105943
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group


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