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Exploring the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the Alto Paraná (Misiones province, Argentina)

Exploring the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the Alto Paraná (Misiones province, Argentina)
Exploring the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the Alto Paraná (Misiones province, Argentina)
This thesis investigates new approaches to analysing and interpreting the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the eastern La Plata basin, through two case studies the upper watershed of the Río Paraná, Misiones province, Argentina. Drawing on ‘non-site’ and ‘distributional’ archaeological theory to establish a robust spatial framework, the first case study concerns the organization of lithic technology in a sample constructed from survey data recorded during June and July 2013 in Eldorado Department. Point pattern data, combined with a desk-based analysis of stone tools, forms the baseline for the application of a family of spatial statistical analyses of surface archaeology derived from Ripley’s K function, and supported by Monte Carlo simulation. These methods succeed in detecting significant technological trends at multiple spatial scales. The results are interpreted as a long-term accumulation of material deposited through different systems of land use, which overlap and blend in a palimpsest of occupational events that are irreducible to their individual episodes. The findings imply that the notion of archaeological ‘sites’ is unfit for the purpose of studying past cultural processes in the region. The results also show that surface data possess significant potential for generating new insights on pre-Columbian settlement patterns in both Misiones and its broader regional context.

In the second case study, the role of monumental architecture in the later pre-Columbian period of Misiones is investigated with a geospatial model. It tests the emergence of territoriality among southern proto-Jê groups as a function of differential access to mound and enclosure complexes. Through a computational approach that combines archaeological and simulated random data, the model is able to discern different hierarchical modalities of accessibility to a sample of southern proto-Jê funerary earthworks. The results demonstrate that the model succeeds in characterizing hereto unknown patterns of structured mobility that existed in relation to these distinctive elements of the later Holocene built environment. Together with a focused point process model using a larger sample of monuments from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, these efforts demonstrate that employing quantitative methods allow archaeologists to move from conceptual models to robust explanatory frameworks in the context of understanding pre-Columbian socio-political complexification.

In sum, it is argued that standard practice of collecting and interpreting surface data in the wider study region fundamentally mischaracterizes the variability, temporality, and spatial scale of this record. Adopting non-site methods and theory offers a solution to this problem. The approaches are evaluated in the Alto Paraná study area in terms of the new interpretative perspectives they enabled. New avenues of enquiry for research aiming to reconstruct past land use are presented based on the findings, including specific improvements concerning survey method and integrating excavated data.
Riris, Philip
54e2bafd-3967-4bbd-a004-04d08cb4cfc6
Riris, Philip
54e2bafd-3967-4bbd-a004-04d08cb4cfc6
Wheatley, David
58266ad0-4ea1-4b1b-a8c3-9fd902931828

Riris, Philip (2014) Exploring the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the Alto Paraná (Misiones province, Argentina). University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 353pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis investigates new approaches to analysing and interpreting the spatial structure of pre-Columbian cultural landscapes in the eastern La Plata basin, through two case studies the upper watershed of the Río Paraná, Misiones province, Argentina. Drawing on ‘non-site’ and ‘distributional’ archaeological theory to establish a robust spatial framework, the first case study concerns the organization of lithic technology in a sample constructed from survey data recorded during June and July 2013 in Eldorado Department. Point pattern data, combined with a desk-based analysis of stone tools, forms the baseline for the application of a family of spatial statistical analyses of surface archaeology derived from Ripley’s K function, and supported by Monte Carlo simulation. These methods succeed in detecting significant technological trends at multiple spatial scales. The results are interpreted as a long-term accumulation of material deposited through different systems of land use, which overlap and blend in a palimpsest of occupational events that are irreducible to their individual episodes. The findings imply that the notion of archaeological ‘sites’ is unfit for the purpose of studying past cultural processes in the region. The results also show that surface data possess significant potential for generating new insights on pre-Columbian settlement patterns in both Misiones and its broader regional context.

In the second case study, the role of monumental architecture in the later pre-Columbian period of Misiones is investigated with a geospatial model. It tests the emergence of territoriality among southern proto-Jê groups as a function of differential access to mound and enclosure complexes. Through a computational approach that combines archaeological and simulated random data, the model is able to discern different hierarchical modalities of accessibility to a sample of southern proto-Jê funerary earthworks. The results demonstrate that the model succeeds in characterizing hereto unknown patterns of structured mobility that existed in relation to these distinctive elements of the later Holocene built environment. Together with a focused point process model using a larger sample of monuments from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, these efforts demonstrate that employing quantitative methods allow archaeologists to move from conceptual models to robust explanatory frameworks in the context of understanding pre-Columbian socio-political complexification.

In sum, it is argued that standard practice of collecting and interpreting surface data in the wider study region fundamentally mischaracterizes the variability, temporality, and spatial scale of this record. Adopting non-site methods and theory offers a solution to this problem. The approaches are evaluated in the Alto Paraná study area in terms of the new interpretative perspectives they enabled. New avenues of enquiry for research aiming to reconstruct past land use are presented based on the findings, including specific improvements concerning survey method and integrating excavated data.

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More information

Published date: December 2014
Organisations: University of Southampton, Archaeology

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Local EPrints ID: 378118
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/378118
PURE UUID: d9774102-8ee2-4fee-a3c3-3a804736bdd2

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Date deposited: 13 Jul 2015 12:03
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 20:54

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Contributors

Author: Philip Riris
Thesis advisor: David Wheatley

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