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Amazonian Dark Earths: Geoarchaeology

Arroyo-Kalin, M; (2014) Amazonian Dark Earths: Geoarchaeology. In: Smith, C, (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology. (168 - 178). Springer New York: New York, NY, USA. Green open access

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Abstract

Amazonian Dark Earths (hereinafter ADEs) are expanses of anthropogenic soils that formed on generally nutrient-poor upland soils of the Amazon basin during pre-Columbian times. Expanses of ADEs range from <1–80 ha, and overall agricultural aptitude is higher than the vast majority of soils in the region. These soils are much sought after by local farmers who use them to grow specific crops. Most of the documented expanses of ADEs are found on Tertiary-age sediments located in riparian and interfluvial positions of the Amazon basin. However, instances are also reported on Quaternary alluvial sediments and on human-made earthworks, highlighting that the formation of these soils was an outcome of specific forms of pre-Columbian settlement. The discovery of ADEs alongside the main waterways of the region has been a crucial Rubicon for Amazonian archaeology: these soils record the effects of pre-Columbian indigenous societies’ creative manipulation of environmental affordances. Thus, they highlight that human inhabitation of the Amazon basin was, and is, much more than efficient adaptation to environmental limitations. Their ubiquity provides strong evidence for the existence of more sedentary and demographically denser indigenous societies in the Amazon basin before European colonization. Moreover, examined from a strictly archaeological perspective, ADEs are one of the best archaeological signatures of sedentary occupations in a region with limited archaeological preservation potential. ADEs are sui generis archaeological artifacts of extraordinary relevance for present-day concerns: soil scientists are currently studying the properties and formation of ADEs in order to develop techniques of soil amelioration that permit recuperation and amendment of degraded and infertile soils.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Amazonian Dark Earths: Geoarchaeology
ISBN-13: 9781441904669
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2252
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2252
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Amazonia, Geoarchaeology, Anthropogenic soils
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10024876
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