Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia

The Hidden Shell Middens

Umberto Lombardo, Katherine Szabo, Jose Mariano Capriles Flores, Jan Hendrik May, Wulf Amelung, Rainer Hutterer, Eva Lehndorff, Anna Plotzki, Heinz Veit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere72746
JournalPloS one
Volume8
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 28 2013

Fingerprint

Soot
Stratigraphy
Amazonia
Occupations
Excavation
Sediments
Deposits
Steroids
Sampling
Radiometric Dating
lowlands
Interdisciplinary Studies
Burial
radiocarbon dating
stratigraphy
Proxy
Islands
microstructure
steroids
savannas

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Lombardo, Umberto ; Szabo, Katherine ; Capriles Flores, Jose Mariano ; May, Jan Hendrik ; Amelung, Wulf ; Hutterer, Rainer ; Lehndorff, Eva ; Plotzki, Anna ; Veit, Heinz. / Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia : The Hidden Shell Middens. In: PloS one. 2013 ; Vol. 8, No. 8.
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Lombardo, U, Szabo, K, Capriles Flores, JM, May, JH, Amelung, W, Hutterer, R, Lehndorff, E, Plotzki, A & Veit, H 2013, 'Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens', PloS one, vol. 8, no. 8, e72746. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072746

Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia : The Hidden Shell Middens. / Lombardo, Umberto; Szabo, Katherine; Capriles Flores, Jose Mariano; May, Jan Hendrik; Amelung, Wulf; Hutterer, Rainer; Lehndorff, Eva; Plotzki, Anna; Veit, Heinz.

In: PloS one, Vol. 8, No. 8, e72746, 28.08.2013.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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