Anna Browne Ribeiro

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Louisville, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9397

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Browne Ribeiro, Dr. Anna T., U. of Louisville, Louisville, KY - To aid research on 'Terra Preta as Indigenous Technology: Integrated Anthropogenic Landscapes on the Lower Amazon'

Preliminary abstract: The Amazonian rainforest is significant for containing global climate and carbon cycles, but stewardship challenges remain. Precolumbian peoples developed systems of use that, unlike contemporary models do not involve clear-cutting and a focus on agriculture, which degrade soils. Indigenous systems improved soils, and archaeological research shows that Amazonian Amerindian populations transformed landscapes to support dense habitation. Amazonian dark earths (ADEs), particularly terra preta (black soil), contain the keys to understanding indigenous technologies and provide a route to sustainable use of Amazonian ecologies. Small farming communities on the Lower Amazon employ techniques that resemble systems posited for pre-Columbian Amerindian populations, but have not succeeded in replicating the results of terra preta. These communities recognize and use ADE soils in subsistence systems. This project will gather data about one such system, in the community of Jocojó, Gurupá (Brazil), while also gathering archaeological, historic, and contemporary landsacape data. Data from scientific research on ADEs will be combined with local strategies, with a view to generating sustainable use strategies for subsistence farmers. Archaeological and ethnographic data suggest successful systems of use are integrated patchwork systems, in which different use-areas are exploited in distinct but complementary ways. Soil, sediment, and geomorphological data will be used to analyze past and present use sites, including ADEs and terra preta, to contribute toward understandings of past and present landscape use, and to link contemporary contexts to past use. This project investigates the idea of terra preta as part of an indigenous technological system that can be mapped, tracked through time, and possibly reproduced in the present.