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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

ANTHROPOLOGY: ARCHEOLOGY: SOUTH AMERICA


BETTY J. MEGGERS, Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute
DONNA J. NASH, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago

RECENT YEARS IN SOUTH AMERICAN ARCHEOLOGY have seen developments in many theoretical areas. Several regions have become the focus of intensive research programs and much information has become available through the publication of survey results and excavation reports (items #bi2006002758#, #bi2007003250#, and #bi2007000450#). While ongoing research in South America is as diverse as its prehistoric past, a number of significant themes run through the work, likely a result of the increasing interaction promoted by multinational conferences and symposia (items #bi2007004061#, #bi2009000529#, and #bi2009000693#). Many investigators are concerned with the processes and material changes affiliated with growing complexity and centralization, changes resulting from cultural confrontations such as the expansion of states or colonial era contact between indigenous groups and foreign intruders. Strikingly, over the past few years many scholars have been concerned with documenting the development of the discipline and its practices, such as collection and exposition, as well as noting the influence of key individuals to their respective regions of research.

One such theme is complexity. Many researchers are working at a number of scales to describe the organization of complex societies (items #bi2007000451# and #bi2007000508#) and their attributes (item #bi2006001021#), or have drawn together several lines of evidence to link material remains to increasing complexity (item #bi2007000451#). Perhaps the most prominent among these is the construction and use of public ceremonial spaces, such as the early center of Caral in Peru's Supe Valley (item #bi2007000200#), the highland center of Chavin (items #bi2008001898# and #bi2009000688#), or the Formative Period center of Tulán in Chile's Atacama basin (item #bi2007004090#). Survey projects documenting significant shifts in settlement patterns have also linked the use or scarcity of specific resources as stimulants for social stratification (items #bi2008002844# and #bi2007003251#). Several programs of research in Northwest Argentina examine changes from the Formative to Regional Development Periods (items #bi2007000449#, #bi2007000452#, #bi2008002879#, and #bi2007000455#). Some of which have focused particularly on the design of public spaces as both an indicator of and a mechanism leading to growing sociopolitical complexity (items #bi2007000451# and #bi2007000456#). Likewise archeologists have used the design of monumental spaces to discuss changes in political activity on Peru's north coast (item #bi2007004055#).

As large examples of material culture, settlement organization (item #bi2008002880#), details of building form (item #bi2007004093#), and the placement of sites and structures on the landscape can be informative means of defining groups because buildings and landscape features can have an active role in the production of identity and its maintenance through time (items #bi2009000528#). Portable goods such as pottery can play a role in reproducing group identity (items #bi2009000690# and #bi2009000689#) with producers of such goods active in the reproduction of ideology (item #bi2007000245#). The objects themselves, especially in the case of the Moche tradition, can provide a glimpse of the different identities operative in a particular society (items #bi2006002248# and #bi2007004055# and #bi2004003424#). Often pottery and other portable goods are key indicators for archeologists to recognize group identity and common practices among some societies, and thus are used to link sites to polities (item #bi2007004224#). Nevertheless, a few studies suggest that elements of style can also be idiosyncratic and representative of individuals during some time periods (item #bi2009000528#). The production and use of material culture has also been used to chart continuity and change over long time periods (item #bi2009000534#), but some scholars warn that such goods may not be the best medium for studying important social or economic changes (item #bi2006002759#), especially during the colonial era when many factors impacted the production and circulation of goods.

Change based on such cultural confrontations is a prominent topic of research in which archeology overlaps with history. Several multidisciplinary collaborative or comparative studies in Argentina (items #bi2009000544#, #bi2009000539#, and #bi2009000540#), Bolivia (item #bi2008001150#), Chile (item #bi2008001149#), Colombia (items #bi2009000534#, #bi2007001017#, and #bi2006002759#), and Peru (items #bi2009000502# and #bi2006002758#) examine the experiences of indigenous groups and the subsequent changes and continuities in material culture, ritual, and economy, among other attributes. Researchers are also examining similar processes resulting from Inca expansion in the Late Horizon (items #bi2007004092#, #bi2008001149#, #bi2008002842#, #bi2008002843#, and #bi2009000514#), as well as the impact that Formative Period and Middle Horizon interaction with contemporary groups had on the character of the Tiwanaku state and its development (item #bi2009000678#), Tiwanaku's relations with autochthonous communities (items #bi2008002835# and #bi2008003500#), or both (items #bi2009000678#, #bi2007000246#, #bi2007000447#, and #bi2008002837#). Interactions also figure prominently in hypotheses of change from the north coast of Peru to the south coast of Chile (items #bi2009000520# and #bi2006003895#).

Interaction as a historical process lends diversity to the archeological record: likewise unique historical situations and interactions in regions and countries of South America have created differences in the discipline and practice of archeology. Over the past few years several edited volumes, monographs, and journal articles focus on documenting the history of collecting (item #bi2009000515#), changing interpretations (item #bi2009000697#), general theoretical and methodological developments (items #bi2009000518#, #bi2009000527#, #bi2009000675#, and #bi2009000523#) and the contributions of individuals (items #bi2009000510# and #bi2009000519#) or groups (item #bi2008002810#). Recent publications discus important issues for the future such as site conservation (items #bi2007004051#, #bi2008001076#, and #bi2008000691#), museum exhibition, and community involvement with the protection of archeological remains (item #bi2007002657#). Such self-reflection demonstrates a strong, mature professionalism that promises future developments and positive contributions from the South American research area in archeological theory. [DJN]

BRAZIL AND THE GUIANAS

The focus of archeological research in Brazil has changed greatly during the past two decades, both in the goal of fieldwork and the interpretation of the evidence. The majority of archeologists are now conducting salvage investigations rather than basic research. Although this shift has the advantage of providing information on previously ignored regions (items #bi2009003486#, #bi2009003467#, #bi2008002152#, and #bi2009003472#), it limits the amount of excavation, analysis, and resulting publication.

Increased attention has been devoted to analysis of human skeletal remains from both recent and ancient sites and from cemeteries, providing information on trauma, sexual differences, diet, and disease (item #bi2009003745#). A particularly significant contribution to the peopling of the hemisphere is made by Walter Neves et al., who have identified a pre-mongoloid population that is less well represented in North America (see HLAS 63:475 and item #bi2009003746#) Lithic evidence of Paleo-Indians has been identified in open sites and rock shelters on the upper Tocantins (item #bi2009003452#) and faunal remains have been described from a rock shelter in Rio Grande do Sul (item #bi2009003473#). A detailed description of the contents of the Santa Elina rock shelter in Mato Grosso with an initial radiocarbon date of 24,000 BP is noteworthy (item #bi2008002150#).

Stimulated by the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas Arqueológicas, the Universidade Federal do Paraná invited 15 senior archeologists to describe the stimulation they received from the CEPA during their early careers (items #bi2009003462# and #bi2009003457#). Biographical sketches have been published on Peter Paul Hilbert (item #bi2009003496#), João Alfredo Rohr (item #bi2009003730#), and José Loureiro Fernandes (item #bi2009003491#).

The most controversial recent development in Amazonian archeology is the application of historical ecology theory to the interpretation of prehistoric cultural development. This approach posits that if humans are not satisfied with the resources of their environment, they can domesticate it. According to Clark Erickson, the principal proponent, archeologists have demonstrated that much of the lowlands was occupied by urban societies practicing intensive agriculture, although he fails to document any examples (item #bi2009003484#) and none of the evidence for environmental limitations provided by ecologists, biologists, paleoclimatologists, geologists, and other specialists is addressed (items #bi2009003711# and #bi2009003707#). His theme is shared by José Oliver (item #bi2009003464#) and Michael Heckenberger (items #bi2009003721#, #bi2009003451#, #bi2009003725#, and HLAS 63:834), but Eduardo Neves provides a more balanced view of the theory (item #bi2009003459#). [BJM]


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