Advances in Wetland Archaeology in the Americas

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Over the last several decades, studies in Central and South America have demonstrated that numerous wetland areas were modified in the Pre-Columbian past, transforming marginal areas into highly productive agricultural land and profitable centers of aquaculture. Scholars emphasize the diversity of these complex hydrological features, which include raised, ditched, and drained fields, canals for transportation and drainage, as well as dams and pools for managing seasonal flooding and trapping fish. Scholars continue to debate the chronology and use of wetland features, the technology and organization of their production, the populations these environments were able to support, and the role(s) wetlands may have played in both local and regional economies in the past. In recent years, research has shown wetlands provide a rich repository of sediments, fauna, and plant remains that offer important proxies for gauging climate change, such as drought, and for understanding human-environment interactions and adaptive responses to stress in pre-Hispanic times. In addition, our understanding of the nature and aerial extent of these features has improved through more advanced aerial survey and mapping techniques, including satellite imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other spatial technologies. These and other advances in wetland research in the Americas are presented here.