Environmental Impact of the Pre-Columbian Geoglyph Builders of Western Amazonia
Watling, Jennifer Georgina
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Much of the data still needs to be published
A debate that has received much attention in recent years is the nature and scale of pre-Columbian impact in the Amazon lowlands. While the notion that Amazonia is a “pristine wilderness" has long been debunked, several papers have proposed that human impact in western regions was more sporadic and on a smaller scale than impacts in central and eastern regions, and that western Amazonia supported sparse pre-Columbian populations. The discovery of over 400 geometrically-patterned earthworks (geoglyphs) in the western Brazilian Amazon, which until recently lay under in-tact tropical forest, has raised important questions about the kind of societies that built them and the impact that they had on the terra firme upland landscapes. This study represents the very first investigations into human-environment interactions in the geoglyph region. By analysing phytoliths, charcoal and stable carbon isotopes from a series of soil profiles in the vicinities of two well-dated and excavated geoglyph sites, this study aims to discern the nature of the environment before, during and after the construction and use of the sites, and the spatial and temporal scales of landscape transformations that were effected by the geoglyph cultures. The data call for a re-appraisal of what is meant by “scales" of human impact in Amazonia, and propose that an understanding of the diversity of human-environment interactions must be considered through studies that closely combine regionally-sensitive archaeological and palaeoecological data.
PhD in Archaeology