Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens

Lombardo, Umberto; Szabo, Katherine; Capriles, José M.; May, Jan-Hendrik; Amelung, Wulf; Hutterer, Rainer; Lehndorff, Eva; Plotzki, Anna; Veit, Heinz; Hart, John P. (2013). Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens. PLoS ONE, 8(8), e72746. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0072746

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We report on previously unknown early archaeological sites in the Bolivian lowlands, demonstrating for the first time early and middle Holocene human presence in western Amazonia. Multidisciplinary research in forest islands situated in seasonally-inundated savannahs has revealed stratified shell middens produced by human foragers as early as 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest archaeological sites in the region. The absence of stone resources and partial burial by recent alluvial sediments has meant that these kinds of deposits have, until now, remained unidentified. We conducted core sampling, archaeological excavations and an interdisciplinary study of the stratigraphy and recovered materials from three shell midden mounds. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, sedimentary proxies (elements, steroids and black carbon), micromorphology and faunal analysis, we demonstrate the anthropogenic origin and antiquity of these sites. In a tropical and geomorphologically active landscape often considered challenging both for early human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, the newly discovered shell middens provide evidence for early to middle Holocene occupation and illustrate the potential for identifying and interpreting early open-air archaeological sites in western Amazonia. The existence of early hunter-gatherer sites in the Bolivian lowlands sheds new light on the region’s past and offers a new context within which the late Holocene “Earthmovers” of the Llanos de Moxos could have emerged.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Paleo-Geoecology
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Lombardo, Umberto; Plotzki, Anna and Veit, Heinz

Subjects:

900 History > 910 Geography & travel

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

11 Dec 2013 14:11

Last Modified:

13 Nov 2015 13:42

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0072746

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.39473

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/39473

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