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Everything That Shines Is Gold . . . but Does It Matter? The Conceptual Relevance of Amazonian Archaeology

The Oak Room, Fellowship House
March 16, 2017
05:30 PM to 07:30 PM
Fully Booked
Pre-Columbian Public Lecture | Eduardo Neves, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Amazonian archaeology initially developed within a paradigm of marginality based on the assumption that the tropics cannot sustain large, stable populations. In fact, research now shows that the human occupation and ceramic traditions of the Amazon are among the earliest anywhere in the Americas. The Amazonian lowlands are becoming accepted as an early center for the domestication of important plants, such as manioc and cacao, and evidence suggests that some late precolonial Amazonian settlements were large enough to be classified as urban. Nevertheless, full-fledged states did not emerge and, notwithstanding the precocity of plant domestication, agriculture may never have been fully adopted. Moreover, we must also account for the fact that many large settlements were abandoned long before the advent of European colonization. This lecture proposes a radically new theoretical perspective on these issues that may be applied elsewhere in the Americas.

Eduardo Neves is Professor of Archaeology at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and currently Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard. He holds a BA in history from the University of São Paulo and a PhD in archaeology from Indiana University. He has published widely on topics related to Amazonian archaeology; among his books are Unknown Amazon: Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil (coedited with Colin McEwan and Cristiana Barreto) and Arqueologia da Amazônia. He directed the Central Amazon Archaeological Project for fifteen years, and he is currently active in fieldwork in southwestern Amazonia. In addition to Harvard, he has been visiting professor at other South American and European institutions.