Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 97–111 | Cite as

The forest people: landscape and firewood use in the Araruama region, southeastern Brazil, during the late Holocene

  • Rita Scheel-YbertEmail author
  • Mariana Beauclair
  • Angela Buarque
Original Article


The site of Morro Grande, situated in the Araruama region, southeastern Brazil (22º47′07″S, 42º21′49″W), is in the Atlantic rainforest phytogeographical domain. It is attributed to proto-Tupinambá agriculturalist and ceramicist populations, recognized by their typical polychrome ceramics. Four periods of occupation were identified at this site: (1) 3,220–2,840 cal b.p.; (2) 3,000–2,150 cal b.p.; (3) 1,820–1,390 cal b.p.; and (4) c. 750 cal. b.p. Analysis of 3,908 charcoal fragments from the three earlier periods has allowed the identification of 78 taxa and 29 plant families. This work demonstrates the permanence of the Atlantic rainforest in the region between 3,220 and 1,390 cal b.p., confirming previous palaeoenvironmental studies in southeastern and southern Brazil. The existence of mature forests is demonstrated; however, firewood was collected mainly from secondary vegetation, probably in the area surrounding the settlement or from cultivated land. These results provide further evidence of human influence on Neotropical rainforests. Creation of secondary environments, however, did not result in irreversible damage to local biodiversity, since the forest tended to regenerate after the clearings were abandoned. Analysis of charcoal concentrated in features allowed the identification of ritual funerary hearths, as well as of a probable specialized feature for firing ceramics. This evidence affords new perspectives for the archaeological interpretation of the funerary ritual and way of life of proto-Tupinambá people.


Landscape Archaeology Rainforest Neotropics Charcoal Tupiguarani 



Thanks are due to Manuel Arroyo-Kalin (University College London, UCL Institute of Archaeology), Freddy Damblon (Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique), and an anonymous referee for revision of the manuscript and suggestions that greatly improved the text, as well as to Claudia Franca Barros and the Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro for the use of the scanning electron microscope. R. Scheel-Ybert is a CNPq fellowship holder. Scientific research that made this paper possible is funded by National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq) and Carlos Chagas Filho Foundation for Research Support of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) projects.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rita Scheel-Ybert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mariana Beauclair
    • 2
  • Angela Buarque
    • 3
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Arqueologia, Laboratório de Arqueobotânica e Paisagem, Departamento de AntropologiaMuseu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Estadual do Ambiente do Rio de JaneiroGerência de Geoprocessamento e Estudos AmbientaisRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Arqueologia BrasileiraDuque de CaxiasBrazil

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