Research Projects

Past Human Impacts in Amazonia

Megaliths of the North-Eastern Amazon

This is an international project that addresses the important cross-disciplinary debate about whether Amazonia prior to 1492 was a pristine tropical wilderness, or instead a heavily disturbed anthropogenic landscape resulting from millennia of intensive human land-use.

A central case study to resolve this crucial question is the tropical coastal forest of NE Amazonia, in Amapá state, Brazil,  where more than thirty pre-Columbian megalithic funerary structures have been recently documented by archaeologist Joao Saldanha and Mariana Prety Cabral from IEPA. Although these impressive megalith-building cultures suggest the presence of sizeable and complex societies with a larger impact on the environment than previously thought, we know very little about past human impact on this region due to the lack of closely-integrated archaeological and paleoecological work.

To address this shortcoming, during this project we will reconstruct vegetation and fire history during the Holocene in the region by applying phytolith, pollen and charcoal analyses to sediments retrieved from a selected lake and soil profiles around the best studied megalithic site Calçoene (dubbed by the BBC as the Brazilian Stonehenge).

Important publications and web-sites:

Cabral, M. P. 2009. Um sítio, múltiplas interpretações: o caso do chamado «Stonehenge do Amapá». Revista de Arqueologia SAB 22 : 115-123. [Open Access]

Cabral, M. P. and J. Saldanha. 2009. Note sur des structures mégalithiques en Guyane brésilienne. Journal de la Société des Américanistes 95:97-110.

Cabral, M. P. and J. D. M. Saldanha. 2008. Paisagens arqueológicas na costa norte do Amapá. Revista de Arqueologia SAB 21:1-14. [Open Access]

Stonehenge Tropical – [National Geographic]

As Pedras do Sol – [FAPESP]

Project Partners

João Saldanha, Centro de Pesquisas Arqueológicas (CPArq) do Instituto de Pesquisas Científicas e Tecnológicas do Estado do Amapá.

Mariana Petry Cabral, Centro de Pesquisas Arqueológicas (CPArq) do Instituto de Pesquisas Científicas e Tecnológicas do Estado do Amapá.

Dr. Francis Mayle, Institute of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Work groups

University of Exeter
HumAnE Bioarchaeology