Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

Anthropology, MA

Committee Chair

Ribeiro, Anna Browne

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Haws, Jonathan

Committee Member

Haws, Jonathan

Committee Member

Gaughan, Andrea

Author's Keywords

Amazonia; landscape archaeology; landscape formation; settlement organization; GIS; spatial analysis


Anthropogenic landscapes are the product of complex human-environment processes that form distinct features in the landscape, which materially preserve and reflect human behavior. Anthropogenic landscapes in Amazonia likely date back to human colonization of the region around 16,000 BP. Since colonization, humans have been marking, modifying, managing, and engineering the landscape resulting in a mosaic of anthropogenic landscape features across Amazonia. The diversity of ancient landscapes documented in Amazonia reflects the cultural heterogeneity that existed in the past. This research explores the complex human-environmental processes that form distinct, identifiable, lasting features on the landscape and what these features can illuminate about past human behavior and human-environment interaction in Amazonia. Data for this research was collected by the Tupinambarana Project at the pre-Columbian site, Macurany, located along the Middle Amazon River in Parintins, Brazil. Survey and topography revealed four distinct classes of anthropogenic landscape features at the site, including ports, middens, terra preta, and cultural forests. These features are clearly the result of anthropogenesis and represent a range of subsistence, settlement, and infrastructure-building activities pointing to a society that was actively engaged with modifying the surrounding landscape. Geospatial analysis of the patterning of landscape features evidenced at Macurany suggest social organization was decentralized. The notion of a permanent, extensive, continuously settled, and decentralized society practicing intensive landscape engineering in pre-Columbian Amazonia challenges traditional perceptions of habitation density and early urbanization in Amazonia. This research contributes towards an understanding of human-environment interaction, landscape formation processes and urbanization in pre-Columbian Amazonia.