Climatic Change

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 321-338

First online:

Archeological evidence for the impact of mega-Niño events on Amazonia during the past two millennia

  • Betty J. MeggersAffiliated withNHB-112, Smithsonian Institution

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Recent recognition of teleconnections between El Niño and climatic anomalies elsewhere on the planet identify northern lowland South America as a region experiencing drought. Extensive archeological survey along the major tributaries of the Amazon during the past 15 years has defined the temporal and spatial distributions of numerous ceramic phases and traditions. An unexpected result has been identification of discontinuities in most local sequences. Large numbers of carbon-14 dates establish their contemporaneity ca. 1500, 1000, 700, and 400 B.P. These dates correlate closely with archeological evidence on the north coast of Peru for destructive mega-Niño events. Observations of the impact of milder recent episodes on the flora and fauna imply catastrophic deterioration in local subsistence resources during prehistoric events, forcing the repeated human dispersals reflected in the linguistic and genetic heterogeneity of surviving indigenous lowland South American populations.