11607 - The Snake People: group identity and public wealth in Pre-Columbian Marajó Island

Small-scale regional polities emerged on Marajo Island seasonally flooded savannas at circa AD 500. Those populations built several systems of interconnected earthworks that included dams, mounds, fishponds, and causeways over an area of roughly 20,000 sq meters. The construction and maintenance of such monumental architecture was designed to produce a steady supply of protein that ultimately furthered demographic increase, and the development of complex sociopolitical systems. Economic wealth was based on the cooperation for building and maintaining the fish farming systems that, although controlled by certain lineages, did not lead to economic social inequality. Rulers and shamans symbolically controlled subsistence supplies by mediating the contact with the supernatural forces. Archaeological excavations of mound groups have revealed one of the most intriguing art styles in the Americas, characterized, among other things, by the conspicuous depiction of mythical snakes over a myriad of pottery objects used for rituals, funerals, and feasts. Ties to the ancestors (real and mythological) were critical for building group identity, ensuring a particular type of ownership over resources. In a landscape dramatically affected by seasonal floods and droughts, the Marajoara reinvented ecology, and guaranteed collective well-being by keeping a close connection to the supernatural world, exhaustively represented in their material culture.

Palabras claves: public architecture, symbolic landscapes, Amazon

Autores: Schaan, Denise Pahl (Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil / Brasilien)


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