Early Hunter-Gatherers in the Americas: Perspectives from Central Brazil

By Kipnis, Renato | Antiquity, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Early Hunter-Gatherers in the Americas: Perspectives from Central Brazil


Kipnis, Renato, Antiquity


There is a preconception among American archaeologists that the late Pleistocene (c. 12,00010,000 b.p.) and early Holocene human occupation of the Americas would have had highly formalized and diagnostic technologies (Bryan 1986), as seen in bifacial fluted projectiles (Clovis and/or Folsom points(1)) or Palaeo-arctic microblades, This bias carries with it two presumptions which have no reason to exist:

* Clovis and related industries had to be diffused throughout the Americas; and

* there should be a 'big-game hunting' horizon in South America.

In short, the North American archetype is being used: if there is a late Pleistocene human occupation in South America, then it should look like the one in North America.

Although several archaeological sites in South America are of the same age as Clovis and Folsom, they do not show the characteristics typical of North American Palaeoindian occupation (Dillehay et al. 1992). Until very recently, a late Pleistocene human occupation in South America was not accepted by mainstream North American archaeologists (Fiedel 1996; West 1991). This can be explained by three factors:

* there was no undisputed pre-Clovis site in North America, as there should be if there were Clovis' contemporaneous occupations in South America and the migration went from north to south;

* the lack of discrete chronological horizon in South America, similar to Clovis period in North America; and

* scarcity of information about South American archaeology being done by South American archaeologists.

The recent publications of Monte Verde site reports (Dillehay 1989; 1997) and site visit by a group of archaeologists (Meltzer et al. 1997; Pedler & Adovasio 1997) put an end to the 'pre-Clovis' occupation debate with the indisputable evidence of human occupation in southern Chile c. 12,500 years b.p. Along with that we hope that more attention will be geared to other South American late Pleistocene sites, and more importantly, to the variability of early human adaptations in the Americas.

This article presents evidence of late Pleistocene human occupations at several sites in the eastern tropical lowlands of South America, specifically in central Brazil, that are not characterized by the presence of specialized 'big-game hunting' assemblages. The archaeological record from this region shows that until c. 3500 years b.p. the region was occupied continuously by egalitarian foraging groups subsisting entirely on wild animals and plants. Reviewing archaeological evidences of this early occupation, this article suggests that adaptation was based primarily on plants and small mammals, with an expedient lithic assemblage geared to manufacturing wood implements.

The fact that late Pleistocene lithic assemblages from South America are distinct from North America should not be a surprise. Clovis, Folsom, Lindenmeier and other North American late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods are specific adaptations to particular ecological context and subsistence strategy. When humans migrated to South America they encountered a very ecologically diverse land, and had to adapt and adjust to this new environment. From an ecological point of view, important once we deal with subsistence strategies, we are talking about local adaptation during a period of important palaeoclimatic changes. The variability found among human occupation in the Americas during late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods can be partially explained by regional adaptations of people facing environmental risk.

Theoretical framework

The human ecological approach to hunter-gatherer studies has shown those societies use a broad range of ways to mitigate risk, including mobility, storage, logistical collecting, exchange, communal sharing, intensification and diversification (e.g. Colson 1979; Goland 1991; Halstead & O'Shea 1989; Spielmann 1986; Wiessner 1982; Winterhalder 1990). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Early Hunter-Gatherers in the Americas: Perspectives from Central Brazil
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.