Welcome to PAST


Get started


Our lastest news

  • 25th July 2018

    New Research Published

    Our latest research has been published in Nature Plants. 

    Maezumi led the research identifying 4500 years of coupled human-environmental systems in the eastern Amazon. The research integrates lake pollen and charcoal with localised archaeology, soil test pits, archaeobotany, and modern botany to reconstruct the history of vegetation change, past subsistence strategies, and the modern legacy of past activity on vegetation and the hyperdominance of economically important species.

    Image result for nature plants journal




  • 56th Congreso Internacional de Americanistas

    PAST was well represented at the Congreso Internacional de Americanistas in the beautiful city of Salamanca, Spain.

    Project director Jose Iriarte was joined by Mark Robinson and Regina Gonda to present a broad spectrum of the research the PAST team have conducted.

    Image result for ica salamanca


    Iriarte synthesised data from archaeology, paleoecology, archaeobotany, climate, botany, and GIS modelling to discuss human-environment relationships in a paper entitled, “A tale of two forests: climate-driven vs. human-induced forest expansion in southern Amazonia (Tupi-Guarani) and the
    southern Brazilian highlands (southern Je)”

    Robinson presented two papers, “Mortuary Mounds and Moieties: Southern Proto-Je Dualism in Southern Brazil”, interpreted the archaeological record through ethnographic analogy to reconstruct ancient cosmology and social structure, and “Integrated phytolith, geochemistry and isotope results from El Triunfo, Bolivia” explored the human-environmental history around Laguna Versalles in the Bolivian Amazon.

    Gonda presented a detailed analysis of anthropogenic soils in the Upper Purus-Madeira, analysing soil geochemistry, isotopes, and phytoliths to understand 3000 years of human influence on the landscape.


  • PAST team presents research in Acre, Brazil: Simpósio Internacional de Arquelogia da Amazônia Ocidental, Acre, Brazil

    PAST team members Jonas Gregorio de Souza and Mark Robinson presented research at the Simpósio Internacional de Arquelogia da Amazônia Ocidental, in July 2018 at the Universidade Federal do Acre (Ufac), in Acre, Brazil.

    de Souza’s paper, “Estructuras de terra geometricas da borda sul da Amazonia”, discussed conceptual implications of earthworks across the whole southern rim of the Amazon, detailing the chronology and diversity in architectural forms.

    Robinson discussed preliminary findings from recent fieldwork in Bolivia in the paper, “Pesquisas arqueológicas e paleoecológicas preliminaries ao redor do Lago Versalles, provincial de Iténez, Bolivia”.

    The meeting was also a chance for the community to pay respects to our sadly departed colleague, Dr. Denise Shaan, whose pioneering research in Acre is the foundation upon which we build our research.


    We thank the organisers, attendees and other presenters for an engaging and productive meeting.



  • 16th October 2017

    Evidence for mid-Holocene rice domestication in the Americas: Rice domestication

    In a new article in Nature: Ecology and Evolution, Hilbert et al. provide evidence from phytolith analysis for the domestication of native rice species in Amazonia.



    The development of agriculture is one of humankind’s most pivotal achievements. Questions about plant domestication and the origins of agriculture have engaged scholars for well over a century, with implications for understanding its legacy on global subsistence strategies, plant distribution, population health and the global methane budget. Rice is one of the most important crops to be domesticated globally, with both Asia (Oryza sativa L.) and Africa (Oryza glaberrimaSteud.) discussed as primary centres of domestication. However, until now the pre-Columbian domestication of rice in the Americas has not been documented. Here we document the domestication of Oryza sp. wild rice by the mid-Holocene residents of the Monte Castelo shell mound starting at approximately 4,000 cal. yr BP, evidenced by increasingly larger rice husk phytoliths. Our data provide evidence for the domestication of wild rice in a region of the Amazon that was also probably the cradle of domestication of other major crops such as cassava (Manihot esculenta), peanut (Arachis hypogaea) and chilli pepper (Capsicum sp.). These results underline the role of wetlands as prime habitats for plant domestication worldwide.

  • Exeter in the Amazon

    The PAST team presented research from across the Amazon at the EIAA IV in Trinidad Bolivia.

    Iriarte, Hilbert, De Souza, Alves, Gonda, and Robinson showcased recent discoveries, analysis, and interpretations.

    Abstracts are available through the conference website http://www.4eiaa.com.

View all news


The project

The Amazon River Basin is the largest rainforest in the world. It represents a major reservoir of biodiversity and has an essential role in global climate and carbon cycle regulations

Read more



We conduct research in four regions of Amazonia that represent different types of land use over the last 500 years, with the aim of investigating the similarities and differences in the development of cultural landscapes across the Amazon basin.

  • Santarem


    Amazonian Dark Earths Lower Amazon Tapajos Culture, AD 1000-1600

  • Middle Purus

    Middle Purus

    Madeira Interfluve

  • Geoglyphs


    Geoglyph builders Upper Purus – Interfluves, AD 1-1400

  • Bolivia


    Ring-ditch villages Baures - Bolivian Amazon, AD 1200-1400

Read more


Methods & disciplines

Our methodology contains a suite of cutting-edge on-site and off-site methods to conduct detailed and comprehensive site-scale, landscape-scale and regional-scale studies of past human diets, land use, and ecosystem impacts.

Read more


Our Production

The results of our work has been presented in the below conferences and published in these academic journals. Also find below clips of our different actitivies in the field.


Our people

An international and multidisciplinary team of the Principal Investigator, three Post-Doctoral Research Fellows and a PhD researcher provides the core of our research group.

An international and multidisciplinary team of the Principal Investigator, three Post-Doctoral Research Fellows and a PhD researcher provides the core of our research group.

The project has also established collaborations with an academic advisory committee composed of European, Brazilian, and Bolivian scholars who contribute with expert advice.

View team

Institutions & Sponsors

© Past - Pre-Columbian Amazon Scale Transformations | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy

© Design by Crudo