Recent discoveries about pre-Columbian societies in the Amazon have revolutionized the way researchers think about the environment, and the degree of interaction that humans have with their surroundings. New evidence indicates that ancient Amazonian populations were not only much larger and more complex than previously thought, but they were also modifying their environment and creating artificial landscapes. Although information about pre-Columbian cultures can be gained from archaeological excavations and historical accounts, the advent of new technology allows archaeologists to conduct research remotely.
Earthworks were constructed by pre-Hispanic peoples to create higher ground for occupation and agriculture, as an adaptation to the annual flooding of the Llanos de Mojos in the Bolivian Amazon. Over the centuries, patches of forest have grown on these earthworks due to their higher elevation and drier soils. By mapping these 'forest islands' using the satellite imagery from Google Earth and transferring the data into Quantum GIS, spatial patterns between the geographical features have been analyzed to reveal relationships between pre-Columbian earthworks, natural and artificial landscape features, and settlement patterns.
This research supports theories of large and complex pre-Columbian populations in the Bolivian Amazon. Patterns between the different size, shape, and location of forest islands show a correlation between specific types of forest islands and water sources, which indicates that pre-Columbian societies were constructing earthworks based on function and distance to water.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences;Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
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Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Boothby, Stephanie, "From a Bird's Eye View: Using Satellite Imagery to Map and Analyze the Forest Islands of the Llanos De Mojos, Bolivia" (2010). HIM 1990-2015. 974.