Amazon Basin, Archaeology

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Amazon Basin, Archaeology

Archaeology Amazon Basin. The archaeology of the Colombian Amazon Basin is concentrated in the Caquetá River in the region of Araracuara and La Pedrera and in the Amazon River in the region close to the city of Leticia, Colombia. The research done in these areas has focused on the identification of pottery traditions and on the study of the early human adaptations to the forest environment. The first studies defined the existence of an early pottery tradition related to the Barrancoid ceramics (2000 bce), whose occurrence may be the result of migrations from the central or lower Amazon. The pottery is characterized by simple forms with incised decoration. A second pottery tradition is characterized by an elaborate polychrome pottery whose origin is presumed to be at the mouth of the Amazon River (Marajoara complex) or in the northern Andes.

The studies geared toward the understanding of human adaptations to the tropical forest of the Amazon are focused on the existence of soils arising from intentional human enrichment (anthropic soils). However, the origin of these rich organic soils sometimes called terra preta is in debate. Most of the existing evidence indicates that terra preta soils are formed by natural processes related to fires, flooding, and other factors that affect the soil's chemical composition. The objective of the research conducted in this area is to understand if the Amazon Basin sustained large-scale societies in the past.

See alsoPrecontact History: Amazoniaxml .


For a more descriptive review of the archaeology of the Amazon Basin, see Leonor Herrera, "Amazonía colombiana," in Alvaro Botiva Contreras, et al., Colombia prehispánica (1989). For a detailed study on the Araracuara region, see Santiago Mora C. et al., Cultivars, Anthropic Soils and Stability (1991). A good review of the archaeological problem surrounding the debate on ancient productivity of terra preta soils and population density is presented in Thomas P. Myers, "Agricultural Limitations of the Amazon in Theory and Practice," in World Archaeology 24, no. 1 (1992): 82-97.

Additional Bibliography

Nimuendajú, Curt. In Pursuit of a Past Amazon: Archaeological Researches in the Brazilian Guyana and in the Amazon Region. Göteborg, Sweden: Världskulturmuseet, 2004.

Reynolds, Jan. Amazon Basin: Vanishing Cultures. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1993.

                               Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo