Research Projects

Early Formative

Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil

This project is aimed at understanding settlement patterns and the architectural evolution of funerary/ceremonial centres that developed during the first half of the second millennium AD that belong to southern Jê groups.

Through our excavations in north-eastern Argentina, we discovered that these groups people built geometric earthen enclosures associated to mounds, where geographically dispersed tribal populations regularly came together to bury an important chief and perform cyclical rituals where meat was steamed in earth ovens and maize beer was prepared at the edge of the gatherings. In addition, by synthesizing previous paleoecological and archaeological records and using GIS predictive survey, geophysical survey techniques, and excavation, we have established how the expansion of Araucaria forest during the late Holocene in the southern Brazilian highlands under wetter climatic conditions is associated with a more intense occupation of this region by southern proto-Je groups.

The project has now broaden to include south-eastern Brazil, where I am collaborating with Dr. Silvia Copé and her team from the NuParq (Nucleo de Pesquisa Arqueologica) Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil, to compare settlement patterns and funerary architecture between the higher regions of the southern Brazilian highlands dominated by Parana pine forest (Araucaria angustifolia) and the lowland region of subtropical forest of Argentina nearby Iguazú Falls.

The project has been funded by National Geographic Society, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the University of Exeter Exploratory Fund, the Municipality of ElDorado, and the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.


Iriarte, J. and H. Behling. 2007. The expansion of Araucaria forest in the southern Brazilian highlands during the last 4000 years and its implications for the development of the Taquara/Itararé Tradition. Environmental Archaeology 12:115-127. [Abstract]

Iriarte, J., J. C. Gillam and O. Marozzi. 2008. Monumental burials and memorial feasting: an example from the southern Brazilian highlands. Antiquity 82:947-961. [Abstract]

Iriarte, J., O. Marozzi and J. C. Gillam. 2010. Monumentos funerarios y festejos rituales: Complejos de recintos y tumulos Taquara/Itarare en ElDorado, Misiones (Argentina). Arqueologia Iberoamericana 6:25-38. [Open Access]

Gessert, S., J. Iriarte, R. C. Ríos and H. Behling. 2011. Late Holocene vegetation and environmental dynamics of the Araucaria forest region in Misiones Province, NE Argentina. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 166:29-37. [Abstract]

ElDorado Museum – Outreach posters 


Dr. Silvia Moehlecke Copé, Departamento de História, Núcleo de Pesquisa Arqueológica, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Dr. Jami Lockhart, University of Arkansas, Arkansas Archaeological Survey, US.

Dr. Michael Fradley, Department of Archaeology, Bournemouth University, UK.

Lic. Oscar Marozzi, Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay.

Christopher Gillam, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, US.

Work groups

University of Exeter
HumAnE Bioarchaeology