An insight into pre-Columbian raised fields: the case of San Borja, Bolivian lowlands
- 1Institute of Geography, University of Berne, Hallerstrasse 12, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
- 2University of Pompeu Fabra, Ramon Trias Fargas 25–27, Mercè Rodoreda, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
- *Independent researcher, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Abstract. Pre-Columbian raised field agriculture in the tropical lowlands of South America has received increasing attention and been the focus of heated debates regarding its function, productivity, and role in the development of pre-Columbian societies. Even though raised fields are all associated to permanent or semi-permanent high water levels, they occur in different environmental contexts. Very few field-based studies on raised fields have been carried out in the tropical lowlands and little is known about their use and past management. Based on topographic surveying and mapping, soil physical and chemical analysis and OSL and radiocarbon dating, this paper provides insight into the morphology, functioning and time frame of the use of raised fields in the south-western Llanos de Moxos, Bolivian Amazon. We have studied raised fields of different sizes that were built in an area near the town of San Borja, with a complex fluvial history. The results show that differences in field size and height are the result of an adaptation to a site where soil properties vary significantly on a scale of tens to hundreds of metres. The analysis and dating of the raised fields sediments point towards an extensive and rather brief use of the raised fields, for about 100–200 years at the beginning of the 2nd millennium.