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The Amazonian Formative: Crop Domestication and Anthropogenic Soils
Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
Received: 29 January 2010; in revised form: 12 March 2010 / Accepted: 24 March 2010 / Published: 29 March 2010
Abstract: The emergence of sedentism and agriculture in Amazonia continues to sit uncomfortably within accounts of South American pre-Columbian history. This is partially because deep-seated models were formulated when only ceramic evidence was known, partly because newer data continue to defy simple explanations, and partially because many discussions continue to ignore evidence of pre-Columbian anthropogenic landscape transformations. This paper presents the results of recent geoarchaeological research on Amazonian anthropogenic soils. It advances the argument that properties of two different types of soils, terras pretas and terras mulatas, support their interpretation as correlates of, respectively, past settlement areas and fields where spatially-intensive, organic amendment-reliant cultivation took place. This assessment identifies anthropogenic soil formation as a hallmark of the Amazonian Formative and prompts questions about when similar forms of enrichment first appear in the Amazon basin. The paper reviews evidence for embryonic anthrosol formation to highlight its significance for understanding the domestication of a key Amazonian crop: manioc (Manihot esculenta ssp. esculenta). A model for manioc domestication that incorporates anthropogenic soils outlines some scenarios which link the distribution of its two broader varieties—sweet and bitter manioc—with the widespread appearance of Amazonian anthropogenic dark earths during the first millennium AD.
Keywords: Amazonia; Formative; anthropogenic dark earths; terras pretas; terras mulatas; manioc; plant domestication; landscape domestication; geoarchaeology; soil micromorphology; anthropogenic landscape transformations; Historical Ecology
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MDPI and ACS Style
Arroyo-Kalin, M. The Amazonian Formative: Crop Domestication and Anthropogenic Soils. Diversity 2010, 2, 473-504.
Arroyo-Kalin M. The Amazonian Formative: Crop Domestication and Anthropogenic Soils. Diversity. 2010; 2(4):473-504.
Arroyo-Kalin, Manuel. 2010. "The Amazonian Formative: Crop Domestication and Anthropogenic Soils." Diversity 2, no. 4: 473-504.