The Llanos de Mojos, a region of the southwestern Amazon, is a seasonally flooded savannah located in the Beni department of Bolivia. The area sustained a significant pre-Columbian population up to the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century. Local communities constructed agricultural landscape modifications to help cultivate crops such as maize, manioc, and sweet potato. Raised fields contributed to soil nutrient intensification and helped to manage flooding. This study examines the relationship between 40,766 raised agricultural fields which were digitized by the Proyecto SIG Arqueologico del Beni using Google Earth and maps of surface flood coverage. Flood maps from 2012–2016 were analyzed using 14-day aggregates of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data provided by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory. These datasets were compared using ArcGIS to examine the extent and variability of yearly flooding as well as the number of raised fields which were subject to seasonal inundation on a year-by-year basis. It was found that despite significant portions of the region being covered by seasonal floods, only 5.79% of the fields were exposed to flooding in total. This study concluded that raised fields were more suited to the containment and dispersion of localized precipitation rather than the dispersion of riverine flooding. Several fields that have paleobotanical associations with maize, manioc, and sweet potato cultivation only experience flooding for 1 out of the 5 years analyzed, supporting their practicality for growing water-sensitive crops.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Martin, Samuel A., "Whetting Their Appetite: A Spatial Analysis of Seasonal Flooding and Raised Field Agriculture in the Llanos de Mojos, Bolivia" (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5941.