Regina Gonda

Department: Department of Archaeology
Discipline: Archaeology

Project Summary

Creating landscapes:
Exploring the legacy of pre-­Columbian land­use in the Purus­-Madeira Interfluve, Amazonia

working title


My PhD research is part of the Pre-Columbian Amazon-Scale Transformations (PAST) project lead by Prof José Iriarte and funded by the European Research Council.

The PAST project aims to reconstruct and assess the long-term effects of past human land-use in lowland Amazonia. My PhD project focuses on the subsistence practises of indigenous people in the interfluvial (non-flooded) forests between the Purus and Madeira Rivers. I'm also interested in the long-term impact of these land-use methods on the landscape. I mainly apply archaeobotany (phytolith and charcoal analysis) and soil property studies.

I look at two different land-use types: (1) I study soils under anthropogenic forests (forests enriched with economically useful palm and tree species by humans in the past) (2) and I investigate anthropogenic (man-made) soils under archaeological sites to understand the subsistence strategies of Amerindians living in these forests before and after the European Contact.

I believe that my research will not only give insight into the livelihood of indigenous people of Central Amazonia in the last ca. 1000 years, but will also help the protection of the environment and living space of these people in a long-term. Since humans are part of these landscapes for thousands of years, archaeological research is crucial in the protection of the rainforests. A solid understanding of the historical role of humans in shaping Amazonian environments and to what extent the forests were resilient to the anthropogenic disturbance is critical in order to understand the current state of Amazonian ecosystems. Thus, the data obtained by the project will provide valuable information for biologists, ecologists, geographers who study the environmental history of interfluvial areas of Amazonia and may play a role in formulating future conservation and management strategies of these ecosystems.

Supervisory Team

Lead supervisor: Prof José Iriarte (Archaeology)

Second supervisor: Dr. Dunia Urrego (Geography)