Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon

Date:
August 28, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to new research.

Details of recovered burnt earth, shells and bone remains from excavations at SM1. A) Thin section from Unit VI; aragonitic and micritic shell fragments cemented together; a bone is visible in the upper left corner (cross polarized light, XPL); b) Pomacea shells found at a depth of 110 cm; c) Impact scar between refitted fragments of a Blastocerus dichotomus tibia found at 160 cm. Mineral dendrites covering the edges of bones and surface damage indicate a percussive blow; d) Mandibular fragment of Mazama sp. found at a depth of 70–75 cm; e) Fragment of burnt earth found at a depth of 140 cm with incised parallel lines, probably culturally-modified; f) Units IV and V as observed in the excavations; Unit V is a layer of well cemented shells surrounded by loose fragments that form Unit IV.
Credit: Image courtesy of Public Library of Science

Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.

The study focuses on a region in the Bolivian Amazon thought to be rarely occupied by pre-agricultural communities due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Hundreds of 'forest islands'- small forested mounds of earth- are found throughout the region, their origins attributed to termites, erosion or ancient human activity. In this study, the authors report that three of these islands are shell middens, mounds of seashells left by settlers in the early Holocene period, approximately 10,400 years ago.

Samples of soil from these three mounds revealed a dense accumulation of freshwater snail shells, animal bones and charcoal forming the middens. The mounds appear to have formed in two phases: an older layer composed primarily of snail shells, and an overlying layer composed of organic matter containing pottery, bone tools and human bones. The two are separated by a thin layer rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth, and the uppermost layer of deposits was also seen to contain occasional fragments of earthenware pottery.

Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, "We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Umberto Lombardo, Katherine Szabo, José M. Capriles, Jan-Hendrik May, Wulf Amelung, Rainer Hutterer, Eva Lehndorff, Anna Plotzki, Heinz Veit. Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e72746 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072746

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130828211130.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, August 28). Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130828211130.htm
Public Library of Science. "Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130828211130.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

AP (July 22, 2014) — Authorities say a 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Maryland. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins