The Llanos de Mojos of the southwestern Amazon region of Bolivia once supported large Pre-Columbian indigenous populations who were regarded as skilled farmers, and whose agricultural pursuits are still documented on the landscape through tens of thousands of raised fields. Nevertheless, the plants that were cultivated on these fields that contributed to a large part of the local cuisine are not well understood. Microbotanical analyses using starch grains and phytoliths of food residues were conducted on 55 archaeological ceramic fragments from four forest islands in Mojos where people resided recurrently from cal BCE 1200 to cal CE ~1430. The results of these analyses identified and described several economic plants known ethnohistorically as cultigens in Mojos and several potential cultigens not yet known. The results indicate the cuisine of peoples in Mojos may have been composed of a rich variety of plants that were likely cultivated on the raised fields. In addition, this study identified damage to starch grains related to food preparation and contributes to our understanding of cooking techniques. Linking plants, cuisine, and material culture in this way enhances our understanding of subsistence strategies in the past, and potentially supports sustainable agricultural strategies to mitigate food insecurity in vulnerable communities today.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Young, Danielle, "Paleoethnobotanical Analysis of Starch Grains and Phytoliths from Pre-Columbian Ceramic Residues in the Bolivian Amazon" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 156.