Ancient Brazilians occupied the same houses for centuries

The preserved architecture shows communities used evolving tools, techniques and ceramic materials to repair, renovate and expand their homes.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 6, 2016 at 4:43 PM

CAMPO BELO DO SUL, Brazil, July 6 (UPI) -- New research suggests the pit house dwellers of Brazil's southern highlands occupied the same houses for centuries, maintaining their in habitability though regular repairs.

The evidence, compiled by researchers from Europe and Brazil, is the first of its kind.

Previous radiocarbon dating attempts suggested the proto-Jê pit houses of southern Brazil were intermittently occupied. But new analysis, including AMS radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling, proves a pit house in Campo Belo do Sul was occupied continuously from 1395 to 1650.

Though larger communal pit houses were sometimes abandoned, the new evidence shows smaller dwellings were continuously inhabited. For centuries, single families or groups of families would reside in the same house -- building floor atop floor and expanding outward as needed.

Remains of the Campo Belo do Sul pit house revealed 12 preserved floors -- five of them burned and collapsed.

The preserved architecture shows communities used evolving tools, techniques and ceramic materials to repair, renovate and expand their homes.

"Our research shows the disparity in domestic architecture in the southern Brazilian highlands," lead researcher Jonas Gregorio de Souza said in a news release. "We have highlighted that it is important to use radiocarbon dating on individual structures to understand how and for how long homes were occupied."

The ongoing research in Campo Belo do Sul shows the ancient proto-Jê culture featured social hierarchies and inequality. Researchers found evidence of differing burial rites for different people. They also found evidence of plant cultivation, further undermining the theory that the people of southern Brazil were too mobile to cultivate year-round agriculture.

"We now know more about the way these groups lived, and are able to challenge the view, dominant until relatively recently, that these were marginal cultures in the context of lowland South America," Gregorio de Souza said.

The new research was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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