The Archaeology of the Guianas: An Overview

  • Stéphen Rostain

The Guianas Shield forms an “island” of approximately 1,800,000 km2 bordered by the Amazon and Negro rivers, the Casiquiare Canal, the Orinoco River and the Atlantic Ocean. It is constituted by the five Guianas: Venezuelan Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Amapá in Brazil (Figure 16.1). As in the Amazonian rainforest, many different natural environments can be distinguished. However, there are three main landscapes that had strong influence on the pre-Columbian peopling: the grassy savannas in the center, the inland rain forest covering most of the area, and the coastal plain.

The cultural evolution of the Guianas is divided into five main eras (Tables 16.1, 16.2) that represent different food procurement strategies: nomadic hunter-gatherers; semisedentary fishermen-gatherers; the first farmers employing slash-and-burn agriculture; raised fields farmers employing permanent agriculture; and people undergoing cultural changes after AD 1200. It is very probable that groups using these different strategies lived simultaneously, as indicated below.


Habitation Site Rock Shelter Projectile Point Shell Midden Mina Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barrère, Pierre, 1743, Nouvelle relation de la France Equinoxiale. Paris.Google Scholar
  2. Boomert, Arie, 1980a, The Sipaliwini archaeological complex of Surinam: a summary. Nieuve West-Indische Gids 2: 94–107.Google Scholar
  3. Boomert, Arie, 1980b, Hertenrits: an Arauquinoid complex in northwest Suriname. Journal of the Walter Roth Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 3 (2): 68–104.Google Scholar
  4. Boomert, Arie, 1981, The Taruma phase of southern Suriname. Journal of the Walter Roth Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 4 (1/2): 105–158. Georgetown.Google Scholar
  5. Boomert, Arie, 1983, The Saladoid occcupation of Wonotobo Falls, western Suriname. Proceedings of the 9th International Congress for the Study of the Pre-Columbian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles, pp. 97–120. Montreal.Google Scholar
  6. Boomert, Arie, 1993, The Barbakoeba archaeological complex of northeast Suriname. OSO 12 (2): 198–222.Google Scholar
  7. Boomert, Arie and Solomon B. Kroonenberg, 1977, Manufacture and trade of stone artifacts in prehistoric Surinam. Ex Horreo IPP 1951–1976. Cingula 4, pp. 9–46. Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  8. Bush, Mark B. et al., 1989, A 6000-year history of Amazon maize cultivation. Nature 340: 103–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cruxent, José Maria, 1972, Tupuquén: un yacimiento con lítica de tipo Paleo-Indio. Acta Cientifica Venezolana 23: 1–17.Google Scholar
  10. Cruxent, José Maria and Irving Rouse, 1958–59, An Archaeological Chronology of Venezuela. Social Science Monographs, No. 6. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  11. Evans, Clifford and Betty J. Meggers, 1960, Archeological Investigations in British Guiana. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 167. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  12. Goeldi, Emilio A., 1900, Excavações Archeológicas em 1895. Memorias do Museo Goeldi. Belém.Google Scholar
  13. Grenand, Pierre and Françoise Grenand, 1987, La côte d’Amapá, de la bouche de l’Amazonie à la baie d’Oyapock, à travers la tradition orale Palikur. Boletim do Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi 3 (1): 1–77. Belém.Google Scholar
  14. Hilbert, Peter P., 1968, Archäologische Untersuchungen am mittleren Amazonas. Dietrich, Berlin.Google Scholar
  15. Mazière Guy and Marlène Mazière, 1997, La recherche archéologique en Guyane. In L’archéologie en Guyane, pp. 23–54. APPAAG, Cayenne.Google Scholar
  16. Meggers, Betty J. and Clifford Evans, 1957, Archaeological Investigations at the Mouth of the Amazon. Bulletin 177. Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  17. Meggers, Betty J. and Clifford Evans, 1961, An experimental formulation of horizon styles in the tropical forest area of South America. In Essays in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology, edited by Samuel K. Lothrop and others, pp. 372–388. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  18. Nordenskiöld, Erland, 1930, L’Archéologie du Bassin de l’Amazone. Ars Americana 1, Paris.Google Scholar
  19. Oliver, José R., 2001, The archaeology of forest foraging and agricultural production in Amazonia. In The Unknown Amazon: Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil, edited by Colin McEwan, Eduardo G. Neves and Christiana Barreto, pp. 50–85. British Museum Press, London.Google Scholar
  20. Ribeiro, Darcy, 2002, Carnets Indiens. Plon, Paris.Google Scholar
  21. Roosevelt, Anna C., 1980, Parmana. Prehistoric Maize and Manioc Subsistence along the Amazon and Orinoco. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Roosevelt, Anna C. et al., 1991, Eighth millenium pottery from a prehistoric shell midden in the Brazilian Amazon. Science 254: 1621–1624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rostain, Stéphen, 1994a, L’Occupation Amérindienne Ancienne du Littoral de Guyane. TDM 129. ORSTOM éditions, Paris.Google Scholar
  24. Rostain, Stéphen, 1994b, The French Guiana coast: a key area in prehistory between the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. Between St. Eustatius and the Guianas, pp. 53–97. Publication of the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation, No. 3. St. Eustatius.Google Scholar
  25. Rostain, Stéphen and Aad H. Versteeg, 2004, The Arauquinoid tradition in the Guianas. In Late Ceramic Societies in the Eastern Caribbean, edited by André Delpuech and Corinne Hofman, pp. 233–250. BAR International Series, 1273. Paris Monographs in American Archaeology, No. 14.Google Scholar
  26. Rostain, Stéphen and Aad H. Versteeg, in press, Territories and territoriality in the Guianas. In Amazonian Cosmographies. Territoriality and Boundaries, edited by Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo and Jean-Pierre Chaumeil. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  27. Versteeg, Aad H., 1978, A distinctive kind of pottery in western Suriname. Mededelingen Surinaams Museum 29: 16–27.Google Scholar
  28. Versteeg, Aad H., 1985, The Prehistory of the Young Coastal Plain of West Suriname. Berichten Rijksdienst Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek 35: 653–750.Google Scholar
  29. Versteeg, Aad H., 2003, Suriname voor Columbus/Suriname before Columbus. Libri Musei Surinamensis 1. Stichting Surinaams Museum, Paramaribo.Google Scholar
  30. Versteeg, Aad H. and Kee Schinkel, 1992, The Archaeology of St. Eustatius. The Golden Rock Site. St. Eustatius Historical Foundation 2/Foundation for the Scientific Research in the Caribbean Region 131. St. Eustatius/Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  31. Versteeg, Aad H. and Frans C. Bubberman, 1992. Suriname Before Columbus. Stichting Surinaams Museum, Mededelingen, 49a, Paramaribo.Google Scholar
  32. Williams, Denis, 2003, Prehistoric Guiana. Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston, Jamaica.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations