[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 61 / Social Sciences

ANTHROPOLOGY: ARCHAEOLOGY


South America

BETTY J. MEGGERS, Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution


ARCHEOLOGICAL FIELDWORK has undergone significant expansion since the beginning of the new millennium as a consequence of laws requiring environmental and cultural impact studies prior to construction, and an increasing number of large-scale projects, such as roads, power lines, oil drilling, and hydroelectric dams. These projects have provided access to previously unknown parts of the continent and have created jobs for numerous archeologists. Unfortunately, government oversight has, in most cases, been inadequate to ensure scientific quality in the fieldwork, and the reports submitted to funding organizations are typically superficial. Detailed analysis and publication of results is rare (items #bi 00006835# and #bi2003002196#).

On the positive side, useful syntheses have been published in several countries. A two-volume work on Argentina provides regional and topical summaries by leading experts (item #bi2004001035#), much like the two-volume overview of Brazil, Antes de Cabral (see HLAS 59:492), which also lists radiocarbon dates by region. A similar synthesis has appeared on the prehistory of the Cauca Valley in Colombia (item #bi2004001130#). An overview of the prehistory of the Orinoco River basin provides an authoritative source on this little-known region (item #bi2004001169#). In Brazil, attention continues to focus on pit houses and shell middens, with efforts now directed beyond description toward reconstructing subsistence and settlement behavior (items #bi2004001105#, #bi2004001049#, and #bi 00003328#).

The peopling of the continent remains a unifying theme, with contributions from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. Topics include skeletal remains (item #bi2001002261#), climatic context (item #bi2004001116#), lithic complexes (items #bi2002002589# and #bi2004001153#), and faunal associations (items #bi2004002041# and #bi2004001132#). A survey in Amazonia has established human presence at least 13,000 years ago, an antiquity comparable to that in the Andean region (item #bi2004001102#).

The density and cultural complexity of the precolumbian population of Amazonia continues to be a focus of controversy, with one faction arguing for dense permanent settlements (item #bi2004001103#) and the other for social and settlement behavior resembling that of surviving unacculturated communities (items #bi2004001047# and #bi2004001101#). A second controversy exists over the antiquity of maize cultivation in South America, pitting radiocarbon dates from pollen and phytoliths (items #bi2004001138#, #bi2004001139#, and #bi2004001145#) against archeological evidence on the coast of Ecuador (item #bi2004001142#).

Growing concern over the potential conflict between the interests of archeologists and indigenous groups is reflected in suggestions for revision of the legislation on cultural patrimony in Argentina (item #bi2003002199#), Brazil (item #bi2003002196#), and Colombia (item #bi2004002040#).

Monographs notable for combining detailed description with innovative interpretation include Aveni on Nasca lines (item #bi 00002906#), Barbosa on the adaptation of early hunter-gatherers to the Cerrado environment of northeastern Brazil (item #bi2004001046#), and Sanoja and Vargas-Arenas on the historical development of Caracas (item #bi2004001172#). A set of articles by Shady and colleagues provides details on the architecture, subsistence, artifacts, and social organization of Caral, the earliest urban settlement in the Americas (items #bi2004002032#, #bi2002003228#, #bi2004001164#, and #bi2002003229#).


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (11/29/11)