Agricultural Earthworks on the French Guiana Coast

  • Stéphen Rostain

Ancient raised fields are known in various countries of South America. Among them are the Llanos de Mojos in Bolivia, Lake Titicaca basin in Bolivia and Peru, Lerma in north Argentina, at the mouth of the Guayas River in Ecuador, in the savannas of highland Bogotá and San Jorge River on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the Llanos of Apure and the middle Orinoco in Venezuela, along the eastern coast of Guyana, on the western and eastern coast of Suriname, and on Marajó Island at the mouth of Amazon River in Brazil (Darch 1983; Denevan et al. 1987). Most of these earthworks are dated in the first millenium AD, but some of them were made as early as 1000 BC.

Thousands of pre-Columbian raised fields surrounded by ditches are located in the coastal zones of the Guianas (Figure 13.1). These agricultural fields were first made by a Barrancoid group in coastal Suriname. Later ones are ascribed to Arauquinoid groups belonging to a cultural continuum settled between Cayenne Island and Berbice River in eastern Guyana. This represents a territory approximately 600 km long where raised field technology was intensively used for almost one thousand years before the European Conquest. This paper deals with three main categories of pre-Columbian earthworks, primarily of the western French Guiana coast: raised fields, ditches and ponds, and causeways.


Aerial Photograph Coastal Plain Sand Ridge Sandy Ridge Bitter Manioc 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stéphen Rostain
    • 1
  1. 1.C.N.R.S. Maison René Ginouvés-Archéologie & EthnologieFrance

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