Archaeological analyzes launch a new hypothesis about the occupation of the coast of Santa Catarina

Archaeological analyzes launch a new hypothesis about the occupation of the coast of Santa Catarina
Archaeological analyzes launch a new hypothesis about the occupation of the coast of Santa Catarina
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An important chapter in the history of the occupation of the Brazilian coast is being rewritten by researchers from the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of São Paulo (MAE-USP) supported by the State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp).

In study published in the magazine PLOS ONEthe group, which also includes authors from Santa Catarina, the United States, Belgium and France, shows that the people who built middens from the Galheta IV site, in the Santa Catarina city of Laguna, were not replaced by ancestors of the Jê people of the South, as if suggested in the past.

“The interaction between the sambaquieiros and the proto-Jê people, as we call it, was much smaller than imagined. Funeral practices and pottery were different.

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Furthermore, the sambaquieiros lived there since childhood and were descendants of others who lived in that same place”, he summarizes André Straussprofessor at MAE-USP and study coordinator.

  • The hypothesis of the replacement of one people by another occurred, in part, because sites like Galheta IV mark the end of the practice of building middens.
  • The most emblematic monuments in the archeology of the South American coast, middens are large mounds of shells and fish bones erected intentionally. They were used both as housing and as cemeteries and to demarcate territory.
One of the burials found by the MAE-USP team in 2005; material was reanalyzed with new techniques Photograph: Paulo DeBlasis

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In the most recent layers of these mounds, remains of pottery similar to those of the ancestors of the Southern Jê indigenous peoples (Kaingang and Laklãnõ-Xokleng) are found. This was another reason why it was suggested, for a long time, that the populations of the Santa Catarina plateau had replaced the midden builders, which has now been refuted.

“It is not known why middens stopped being built. Some hypotheses range from contact with other cultures to environmental changes, such as changes in salinity and sea level, which may have reduced the availability of molluscs that were raw material for the construction of these sites”, he explains. Jessica Mendes Cardosofirst author of the study, carried out during her doctorate at MAE-USP and the University of Toulouse, in France.

Cardoso reanalyzed the material collected between 2005 and 2007 by another team from MAE-USP and the Research Group on Heritage Education and Archeology at the University of Southern Santa Catarina (Grupep/Unisul), when the skeletons of eight individuals were exhumed. This time, methods such as analysis of strontium, carbon and nitrogen isotopes were used.

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The techniques were decisive in defining the diet of those people, which was 60% made up of marine resources, such as fish. Analysis of the bones also shows that the individuals were not cremated, as the proto-Gê people of the south of the country did with their dead.

Other analyzes included the remains of fauna, mainly fish, common in sambaquis. Unlike others, this site also had the bones of seabirds, such as albatrosses and penguins, and even mammals, such as a sea lion.

“These animals were not part of the daily diet, but consumed seasonally, during periods when they were migrating and could be captured in that location. Its consumption was probably part of funeral rituals, since people did not live there, they just buried their dead”, says Cardoso. In one of the burials, for example, there were 12 albatrosses.

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New dating also determined that the site is older than previously estimated, having been built and visited between 1,300 and 500 years ago. The previous estimate was 1,170 to 900 years ago.

The analysis of the ceramics found at the archaeological site also points out that the proto-Jê may have simply been a cultural influence adopted by the sambaquieiros. Of the 190 fragments present at the site, 131 large enough for analysis were examined.

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“The ceramics have characteristics of form and decoration that are very different from those found on the Santa Catarina plateau. The similarities are with those on the coast, both to the north and south of the State, which shows a transit of these objects along the coast”, he says Fabiana Merencioco-author of the work, carried out during my doctorate at MAE-USP with handbag from Fapesp.

“In fact, this is the oldest pottery ever found in the State, 1,300 years old, while the one on the plateau is around a thousand years old,” she adds, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).

“We are showing the appearance of a new expression of human materiality on the coast, around a thousand years ago, which is the replacement of sambaquis with sites without mollusc shells and the presence of ceramics. This site is a ‘rosetta stone’ for understanding these connections”, concludes Strauss.

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A new research group will now return to the region and focus on another site (Jabuticabeira II) in a new project supported by Fapesp, under the coordination of the MAE-USP professor Ximena Villagran.

The article Late shellmound occupation in southern Brazil: A multi-proxy study of the Galheta IV archaeological site can be read at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0300684. /AGÊNCIA FAPESP

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Archaeological analyzes launch hypothesis occupation coast Santa Catarina

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