Soil properties and pre-Columbian settlement patterns in the Monumental Mounds Region of the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivian Amazon
- 1Universität Bern, Geographisches Institut, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
- 2CaSeS research group, IMF-CSIC, C/Egipciaques, 15-08001 Barcelona, Spain
Abstract. In the present paper we explore to what degree soil properties might have influenced pre-Columbian settlement patterns in the Monumental Mounds Region (MMR) of the Llanos de Moxos (LM), Bolivian Amazon. Monumental mounds are pre-Hispanic earth buildings and were preferentially built on mid- to late Holocene palaeolevees of the Grande River (here denominated PR1), while levees of older palaeorivers (PR0) were only sparsely occupied. We dug two transects across PR0 and PR1 levee–backswamp catenas and analysed them for grain size, pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC) and Corg. Our data show that PR1 soils, where the density of mounds is higher, have far greater agricultural potential than PR0 soils, which are affected by aluminium toxicity in the backswamps and by high levels of exchangeable sodium in the levees. This study provides new data on the soil properties of the south-eastern Bolivian Amazon and reinforces the hypothesis that environmental constraints and opportunities exerted an important role on pre-Columbian occupation patterns and the population density reached in the Bolivian Amazon.