• Ruth Dickau Department of Archaeology, Laver Bldg., North Park Rd., University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK / Current address: HD Analytical Solutions, 952 Oxford St. West, London, ON, N6H 1V3, Canada
  • José Iriarte Department of Archaeology, Laver Bldg., North Park Rd., University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK
  • Timothy Quine Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Hatherly Laboratories, Prince of Wales Rd., University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK
  • Daniel Soto Museo de Historia Natural ‘Noel Kempff Mercado’, Universidad Autonomía Gabriel René Moreno, Av. Irala 565, Casilla 2489, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
  • Francis Mayle Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 227, Reading, RG6 6AB, UK
Palavras-chave: Raised fields, Agriculture, Paleoenvironment, Phytolith analysis, Stratigraphy, Amazonia


Abstract: Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the western Llanos de Moxos, Bolivia, transformed large expanses of seasonally flooded savannah into a complex agricultural landscape. Extensive raised field systems, along with associated canals and causeways, suggest a sophisticated approach to managing land and water resources for permanent, intensive, agricultural production. However, the detailed construction history, specific crops, and palaeoenvironmental impacts of these fields are poorly known. To investigate these issues, we analyzed stratigraphy and phytoliths from two raised fields (camellones) at the site of Campo España, western Beni, Bolivia. Results indicate that prior to field construction, vegetation was mainly palm savannah. A decline in arboreal phytolith frequencies is associated with human clearing and initial field construction. A peak in burnt grass phytoliths followed by an increase of Asteraceae, suggests a period of regular field maintenance and intensive agricultural use. Maize (Zea mays) and manioc (Manihot esculenta) were grown. A small increase in arboreal phytoliths suggests some forest recovery after field abandonment. This study demonstrates the utility of phytolith and stratigraphic analyses in reconstructing construction, cultivation, and palaeoenvironmental histories of raised field systems, and assessing their role within the advanced agricultural landscape management practiced by pre-Columbian populations in the Bolivian Amazon. Resumo: Os habitantes pré-colombianos de Llanos de Moxos ocidental, Bolívia, transformaram grandes áreas de uma savana sazonalmente inundada em complexas paisagens agrícolas. Extensos campos de plantação, assim como canais e caminhos associados, sugerem uma abordagem sofisticada para o manejo da terra e dos recursos aquáticos para produção agrícola intensiva e permanente. No entanto, detalhes sobre suas histórias construtivas, plantações específicas e os impactos paleoambientais destes campos são pouco conhecidos. Para investigar estas questões, analisamos a estratigrafia e os fitólitos de dois destes campos elevados (camellones) do sítio Campo España, oeste de Beni, Bolívia. Os resultados indicam que antes da construção dos campos, a vegetação era majoritariamente uma savana com palmeiras. O declínio na frequência de fitólitos arbóreos é associado com uma limpeza da área pela ação humana e o início das construções dos campos. Um pico nos fitólitos de grama queimada seguido porum aumento de Asteraceae, sugere um período de manutenção regular dos campos e uso agrícola intensivo. Eram cultivados milho (Zea mays) e possivelmente mandioca (Manihot esculenta). Um pequeno aumento dos fitólitos arbóreos sugere certo grau de recuperação da floresta após o abandono dos campos. Este estudo demonstra a utilidade de análises de fitólitos e estratigráficas na reconstrução dos processos de construção, cultivo e história paleoambiental dos sistemas de campos elevados e na avaliação de seus papeis dentro do avançado manejo de paisagens agrícolas praticadas por populações pré-colombianas na Amazônia boliviana.


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