Amazonian dark earths, or terra preta, constitute archaeological evidence of ancient human settlements. They are distributed throughout the Amazon basin, especially concentrated along its major rivers. In the region of La Pedrera, on the Caquetá (Japurá) River in Colombian Amazonia, archaeological studies have demonstrated the presence of these fertile soils extending over areas of 3 to 5 hectares with an anthropic horizon that varies from 70 cm to 1.2 m in depth. Associated with the sites are faunal remains from fish, turtles, and small rodents, as well as a high density of ceramic fragments and botanical remains, including phytoliths, charcoal, and seeds, the latter two dated to between 6500 and 1300 yBP. Archaeobotanical data (seeds and phytoliths) suggest intensive use of palms by pre-Columbian peoples. High sample densities were observed for the following species: canangucha/burití (Mauritia flexuosa), asaí/açaí (Euterpe precatoria), seje/batauá (Oenocarpus bataua), milpesito/bacabinha (O. bacaba), chambira/tucuma (Astrocaryum chambira), palma real/inajai (Attalea maripa), puy/caraná (Lepidocaryum tenue), and species of the genus Bactris. Archaeological remains of manioc (Manihot esculenta), maize (Zea mays), and squash (Cucurbita sp.) were also identified, along with the following fruit species: Annona sp., ice cream bean/guama (Inga edulis), cocoa/cacau (Theobroma cacao), cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum) and pineapple (Ananas comosus). Various herbaceous taxa, indicators of disturbed areas, were also identified, along with elements used in the elaboration of ceramics (Licania sp.). These preliminary results suggest that the Amazonian dark earths of La Pedrera were used for agricultural production and human habitation. We also note that their location, near rapids, is strategic for fishing and land management.

Included in

Anthropology Commons