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Late Pre-Hispanic Chiefdoms of Northern Colombia and the Formation of Anthropogenic Landscapes

  • Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo

The main objective of this paper is to discuss what we have learned of the relationships of these chiefdom societies with their environments and the transformations of the landscape as case studies in historical ecology. In both complexes of chiefdoms, Sinú and Tairona, the human populations shaped the landscape to such a degree that they are best understood as anthropogenic—two great archaeological landscapes transformed by human activities involving intensive selection and modification (Denevan 1992: 375). The impact of these chiefdoms on the landscape is apparent even in the present, defining the ecology of the regions. Only recently have they become more “natural” after the depopulation created by the Spanish conquest that decimated the native population to a fraction of its pre-Hispanic size.

This chapter considers how and why these pre-Hispanic societies developed a degree of complexity that places them in the chiefdom category. All of them had a strong impact on their landscapes, to the point that the modern environments can be characterized as archaeological artifacts still in use today. Descendents of the original inhabitants still live in both regions. Linguistically, the descendents of the Sinú have lost their language, making it impossible to classify them in terms of known linguistic families (Adelaar and Muysken 2004). However, taking toponyms into consideration the area seems to have been occupied by Chibchan speakers. In the case of the SNSM, the various groups that still exist also belong to the Chibchan language family.

Keywords

Settlement Pattern Human Occupation Burial Ground Anthropogenic Landscape Lithic Artifact 
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.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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