Bruna Rocha

Archaeology of the Upper Tapajós River, Pará, Brazil

The Upper Tapajós River, in the southern Brazilian Amazon, is as yet little-known in archaeological and more generally scientific terms. Nonetheless, its potential for yielding information about the past is clear; further, it is the first of the Amazon’s southern tributaries to link it to Brazil’s Highland Shield. The prevailing idea about the area is that it is an empty space without history, something that has facilitated past and present dispossession of communities of forest peoples living there.

The aim of my research is to insert this region within the wider Amazonian context, where, from the 1st millennium AD, changes related to population expansion and crop cultivation were underway. I will investigate whether evidence of population expansion can be isolated on the Upper Tapajós River and examine possible links to specific language families (Carib, Tupian, Arawakan, Gê).

A solid proxy for population density is the density of ceramic remains and signatures of enduring landscape domestication, particularly the presence and characteristics of anthropogenic dark earths (ADEs). Proxies of regional interaction spheres are the stylistic features of pottery from archaeological sites (Incised-Punctuate, Amazonian Polychrome, Incised-Modelled). Associations between these complexes and language families are by no means straightforward but hypotheses continue to fuel discussion (e.g. Hornborg 2005, Hornborg and Hill 2011).

The collected evidence will also allow me to discuss the development of social complexity during the late pre-Columbian period, to assess the reach of long-distance exchange networks, and to critically examine the usefulness of the concept of ‘chiefdoms’ in the region.

Funding organisation

  • CAPES – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nivel Superior (Brazil).


 Educational background

  • BA, History of the Modern Third World (SOAS), 2005
  • MA, Archaeology, IoA – UCL, 2012

Rescuing the ground from under their feet? Legitimate vs. invisible cultural heritage in the Brazilian Amazon. Paper presented at How to Build a Dam and Save Cultural Heritage conference at the University of Durham, July 2012.

Rocha, B.C. & Honorato, V.E.H. 2011. Arqueologia Regional do Alto Tapajós. Anais da II Semana de Aruqeologia – MAE. Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia.

Arqueologia Regional do Alto Tapajós. Presentation at the II Archaeology Week held at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, University of São Paulo.

  • 1.	Work on Terra Preta do Mangabal site, Mangabal, with Pedro Braga and Vinicius Honorato. August 2011

Bookmark and Share