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Examining pan-neotropical diasporas

Project description

Climate change influences human migration

Many human expansions have been linked to climate change. Ancient ecological records suggest that climate change may have influenced tropical farmers' diaspora. As a result, the areas where polyculture agroforestry was practiced, expanded. The EU-funded EXPAND project uses Iowland South America as an interesting case study that integrates continent-wide archaeological and palaeoecological datasets via computer modelling architecture to test the role of environmental drivers in the late Holocene period. The project findings will help bring lowland South America to the forefront of the debate on climate change and human population dynamics.


The expansion of farmers and their languages was a key process in shaping cultural geographies across the globe during the late Holocene. Many human expansions in the past are linked to periods of climate change, which would have offered opportunities and constraints for migrations. In lowland South America, the extent of major language families coincides with the expansion of archaeological traditions ~3-2 kyr BP together with the dissemination of polyculture agroforestry. This period was marked by increased precipitation and forest expansion, as documented in paleoecological and paleoclimate records, ultimately suggesting that climate change may have played a role in tropical farmers' diasporas by expanding the areas where polyculture agroforestry could be practised. However, an evaluation of that hypothesis is hampered by the lack of unified archaeological databases, absence of land cover reconstructions for the late Holocene, and poor integration of archaeology and paleoecology in South America. To overcome those drawbacks, this project will integrate continent-wide archaeological and paleoecological datasets through computer modeling architecture to test the role of environmental drivers in late Holocene cultural diasporas. I will compile all available dates, coordinates and cultural information for late Holocene archaeological sites in lowland South America, model vegetation changes from all available paleoecological records, and integrate those datasets using state-of-the-art computational modeling techniques. I will employ agent-based modeling to simulate scenarios of climate-driven human expansions that will be tested based on the empirical archaeological data gathered over the course of the project. By integrating archaeology, paleoecology and computer modeling to address crucial questions about past human migrations, this project will bring lowland South America to the forefront of the debate about climate change and human population dynamics.


Net EU contribution
€ 160 932,48
08002 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 160 932,48