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Diversity 2010, 2(3), 331-352; doi:10.3390/d2030331

Pre-Columbian Earthworks in Coastal Amazonia

UMR 8096 “Archéologie des Amériques” CNRS, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Maison René Ginouvès, 21 allée de l’Université, Nanterre 92023, France
Received: 4 December 2009 / Accepted: 28 January 2010 / Published: 2 March 2010
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Abstract

As in other parts of Amazonia, pre-Columbian Indians have profoundly modified the coast of the Guianas. Between 650 and 1650 AD, Arauquinoid people occupied a territory that was approximately 600 km long and used the raised field technique intensively before the European conquest. They erected thousands of raised fields of various shapes, dug canals, ditches, and pathways, and built artificial mounds to establish their villages. All these earthworks changed forever the face of the coastal flooded savannas and their ecology. Such labor was probably organized under the leadership of a central authority: it seems that Arauquinoid societies were organized in a chiefdom system. Statistical calculations, based on the known surface area of raised fields and on their estimated productivity, suggest a population density of 50 to 100 inhabitants per km2. Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Guianas coast carefully organized, managed and “anthropisized” their territory following a specific pattern.
Keywords: Guianas; coast; savanna; agriculture; raised field; Arauquinoid; pre-Columbian Guianas; coast; savanna; agriculture; raised field; Arauquinoid; pre-Columbian
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Rostain, S. Pre-Columbian Earthworks in Coastal Amazonia. Diversity 2010, 2, 331-352.

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