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Getting to the Root of the Question: rethinking the role of cultivated plants in the Amazonian past through Archaeobotany and Ethnoarchaeology

Grant number: 13/22373-3
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2014
Effective date (End): August 31, 2016
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Archeology
Principal researcher:Rui Sérgio Sereni Murrieta
Grantee:Leandro Matthews Cascon
Home Institution: Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The manihot plant possesses great importance in the diet of indigenous populations of the Amazon, inhabiting not only the bodies but also the minds and cosmology of groups of the region. For a long time such importance has been projected onto the Amazonian past, and in archaeology manihot is frequently viewed as the dietary basis, or 'staple-crop', of pre-Columbian Amazon. Recent studies of plant remains throughout archaeological sites of the Amazonian region have, however, brought a new set of data which point to a great diversity of resources in the diet of past populations, suggesting more complex and diversified roles of manihot in the Amazonian past than previously thought. Together with previous critics regarding traditional methods of inferring manihot use in archaeological contexts, this new direct data on plant use has set an important current debate on the role of manihot in pre-Columbian Amazon. Such debate has, however, been impeded by current state of knowledge on the potential for identifying manihot use in the past through archaeological plant remains, and interpretations have appeared that question if the absence of manihot remains seen in sites of the region might be due to a preservation bias and not due to a fewer importance than traditionally postulated. The project intends on evaluating the potential of identifying manihot in archaeological contexts, through ethnoarchaeology amongst Baniwa communities of Northwestern Amazon. By combining ethnographic and archaeobotanical laboratorial analyses of artifacts related to manihot use and of soils from manihot cultivating, processing, consuming and discarding areas, reference collections of botanical remains will be constructed, serving as a valuable database for future studies in the region.

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Academic Publications
(References retrieved automatically from State of São Paulo Research Institutions)
CASCON, Leandro Matthews. Getthing to the Root of the Question: Rethinking the role of cultivated plant use in the Amazonian past through Ethnoarchaeology amongst the Asurini of the Xingu River. 2017. Doctoral Thesis - Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE) São Paulo.

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