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Archaeological expansions in tropical South America during the late Holocene: Assessing the role of demic diffusion

AuthorsGregorio de Souza, Jonas; Alcaina-Mateos, Jonas; Madella, Marco
Issue Date2020
PublisherPlos One
CitationPLoS ONE (15/4): e0232367. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232367 (2020)
AbstractHuman expansions motivated by the spread of farming are one of the most important processes that shaped cultural geographies during the Holocene. The best known example of this phenomenon is the Neolithic expansion in Europe, but parallels in other parts of the globe have recently come into focus. Here, we examine the expansion of four archaeological cultures of widespread distribution in lowland South America, most of which originated in or around the Amazon basin and spread during the late Holocene with the practice of tropical forest agriculture. We analyze spatial gradients in radiocarbon dates of each culture through space-time regressions, allowing us to establish the most likely geographical origin, time and speed of expansion. To further assess the feasibility of demic diffusion as the process behind the archaeological expansions in question, we employ agent-based simulations with demographic parameters derived from the ethnography of tropical forest farmers. We find that, while some expansions can be realistically modeled as demographic processes, others are not easily explainable in the same manner, which is possibly due to different processes driving their dispersal (e.g. cultural diffusion) or problematic/incomplete archaeological data.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232367
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