The Nonagricultural Chiefdoms of Marajó Island

  • Denise Pahl Schaan

The study of the pre-Columbian occupation on Marajó Island dates back to the beginnings of archaeology as a field of inquiry in Brazil during the late nineteenth century. Elaborate funerary vessels, together with other exquisite pottery objects excavated from Marajoara cemetery mounds soon filled museums in Rio de Janeiro and Belém, while short notes and articles published in important journals attracted worldwide attention to the unexpected traits of “civilization” just discovered in the tropics. For decades to come, the origins of the people who built the 10- to 12 m-high earthen mounds and the meanings of the decorative designs on their pottery were a matter of speculation.

A change in research objectives and methodology took place with the arrival of Betty Meggers and Clifford Evans, who carried out the first regional survey on Marajó Island during the late 1940s, providing a comprehensive account of Marajoara culture and previous occupations. Based on ceramic attributes, Meggers and Evans (1957) defined five different archaeological phases for Marajó Island alone. With the exception of the Marajoara Phase, which is the fourth one, the others were called “tropical forest phases,” after Steward (1948).


Aquatic Resource Social Complexity Settlement System Terra Firme Forest Pottery Production 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise Pahl Schaan
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculdade de Ciências SociaisUniversidade Federal do Pará BelémBrazil

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