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

Lombardo, U and Szabo, K and Capriles, JM and May, JH and Amelung, W and Hutterer, R and Lehndorff, E and Plotzki, A and Veit, H (2013) Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens. PLoS ONE, 8 (8).

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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. © 2013 Lombardo et al.


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Details

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lombardo, U
Szabo, K
Capriles, JM
May, JH
Amelung, W
Hutterer, R
Lehndorff, E
Plotzki, A
Veit, H
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, or Units > Center for Comparative Archaeology
Date: 28 August 2013
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: PLoS ONE
Volume: 8
Number: 8
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072746
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2013 18:07
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:55
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19793

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