Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


PAST Report Summary

Project ID: 616179
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - PAST (Pre-Columbian Amazon-Scale Transformations)

Pre-Columbian Amazon-Scale Transformations (PAST) investigates the influence of late pre-Columbian (1000-1492 A.D.) land use on Amazonian landscapes, the impact of the 1492 Columbian Encounter (CE) and its modern legacy through the comparative study of pre-Columbian land uses in four different regions of Amazonia. The research is conducted using an innovative interdisciplinary approach that for the first time integrates archaeology, ethnohistory, archaeobotany, palaeoecology, palaeoclimate, soil science, landscape ecology and remote sensing to the following study regions: (1) the Santarem Amazonian Dark Earth sites in the Lower Amazon, (2) the interfluvial areas of the Purus-Madeira Rivers in the Central Amazon, (3) the Acre geoglyphs of SW Amazonia and (4) the ring-ditches of the Baures forested areas of the Bolivian Amazon. The results of the project have broader implications not only for archaeology and geography, but for conservation and sustainable Amazonian futures. The protection of rainforests and the development of sustainable land use practices in the humid tropics are of global significance because these forests represent a major reservoir of biodiversity and are of crucial importance for the regulation of Earth’s climate. Therefore, this international interdisciplinary project seeks to understand the historical role of humans in shaping Amazonian landscapes and to what extent Amazonian forests were resilient to historical disturbance, which is in turn, critical to make informed policy decisions about sustainable Amazonian futures.

The project is now moving into its second phase, having successfully completed the first two field seasons in the lower Amazon and in the Middle Purus-Madeira interfluves of the central Amazon, which focused on understanding the nature of agricultural practices and the inventory of crops that were planted on Amazonian Dark Earths, as well as the spatial extent of forest perturbation resulting from ADE formation and agricultural practices. PDRA Maezumi and PhD students Gonda, Travassos, Hilbert, Almeida and Brazil da Silva are currently finalising the archaeobotany, palaeoecology, botany and soil science laboratory analyses of these two floodplain and interfluvial regions, as well as presenting and writing up the first string of papers from these results.

With extra funds provided by the University of Exeter we have upgraded the UAV system to a fixed-wing plane and to a more precise survey-grade LIDAR sensor resulting in a safer, more accurate and robust system that will allow coverage of larger areas of the Amazon. PDRA Khan has spent four field seasons in Brazil testing and calibrating the NAURU UAV; integrating the optical multispectral cameras on the drone; field and flight testing of the drone; and training on radio controlled model flying. The UAV NAURU is fully tested and functional and the team will now be carrying out the final fine-tuning stages of integration in the coming months with the first flights of data-acquisition planned for early October.

Collectively, the PI, PDRAs and PhD students have three papers in press, three papers in preparation to be submitted before the end of 2016, two published book chapters and 1 book chapter in press. We have presented 17 papers at international conferences (including AAAs, SAA, UNESCO) and we participated at five international workshops where PAST preliminary results has been discussed. All team members are contributing to the PAST website, hosted through the University of Exeter that is intended as an open access resource to disseminate project findings to interested parties.


Gaynor Hughes, (European Research Manager)
Tel.: +44 1392 725835
Fax: +44 1392 263686
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