Human burial with incised pottery at the archeological site of Bacanga on the island of Sao Luas. Photo credit: André Colonese
An international study by the Institute for Environmental Sciences and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and the Department of Prehistory of the UAB reconstructed the diet of pre-Columbian groups on the Brazilian Amazon coast and showed that tropical agroforestry is regionally different.
In the past few decades, interest in the formation and development of the pre-Columbian economies in the Amazon has increased. However, the lack of human remains from this period has limited our understanding of the contribution of plants, terrestrial animals and fish to individual diets, and thus their role in supporting population growth and cultural change in this region prior to European contact.
This new study, published in Scientific Reports, used stable isotope analysis and Bayesian blending models to reconstruct the diets of people who lived on the Brazilian Amazon coast 1,000 to 1,800 years ago.
They found that despite the proximity to marine resources and evidence of fishing, the diet was largely based on land plants and animals. Land mammals and plants were the main sources of calorie intake. Terrestrial animals were also the main source of dietary protein compared to fish.
Among the taxonomically identified animals they found rodents such as Paca, Cavia or Cutia, a Brocket Deer and Catfish. In the late Holocene, a variety of wild and cultivated plants such as cassava, corn, pumpkin and others were consumed.
The archeological site of Bacanga on the island of Sao Luas. Photo credit: André Colonese
"The results challenge the widespread belief that fish is the primary economic component and the greatest source of protein among pre-Columbian populations living near waters in the lowlands of the Amazon," says Colonese. He adds that the results suggest that these populations have made significant efforts in hunting, forest management and plant cultivation.
"Our study provides unprecedented quantitative information on the extent to which different food categories from agroforestry systems met the calorie and protein needs of the pre-Columbian Amazonian population, and confirms the growing consensus that these diversified subsistence economies fueled cultural, demographic and environmental changes in the eastern Amazon basin during the late Holocene . "
Finding ancient rainforests through modern mammal diets
Andre Carlo Colonese et al., Evidence of Stable Isotopes for Diet Diversification in the Pre-Columbian Amazon, Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-73540-z
Autonomous University of Barcelona
Diet of pre-Columbian societies in the Brazilian Amazon reconstructed (2020, October 6th)
accessed on October 6, 2020
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