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Sacred places and funerary rites

Southern Jê monumental landscapes of the Southern Brazilian highlands and Argentina

Professor José Iriarte

This project aims to understand the settlement patterns of the southern Jê groups during the first half of the second millennium AD, as well as to investigate the architectural evolution of their funerary ceremonial centres. Through our excavations in north-eastern Argentina, we discovered that these groups of people built geometric earthen enclosures which were associated with mounds. These places marked where geographically dispersed tribal populations regularly came together to bury an important chief and perform cyclical rituals. These rituals included the steaming of meat within the earth ovens and the preparation of maize beer at the edge of the gatherings.

We have also started a collaboration with Dr. Silvia Copé and her team from the NuParq (Nucleo de Pesquisa Arqueologica) Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil to compare settlement patterns and funerary architecture between the higher regions of the southern Brazilian highlands, dominated by Parana pine forest (Araucaria angustifolia), and the lowland region of subtropical forest of Argentina near Iguazú Falls. The project has been funded by National Geographic Society, the University of Exeter Exploratory Fund, the Municipality of ElDorado, and the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.

Read more about this research at the National Geographic webpage

Iriarte, J., Gillam, C. and Marozzi, O. 2008. Monumental burial and memorial feasting: An example from the southern Brazilian highlands. Antiquity 82: 947-961.

Iriarte, J. and H. Behling. 2007. The expansion of Araucaria forest in the southern Brazilian highlands during the Late Holocene and its implications for the development of Taquara/Itararé Tradition. Environmental Archaeology 12: 115-127.