Quaternary landscape evolution and human occupation in northwestern Argentina
M. M. Sampietro Vattuone, L. Neder, 2011. "Quaternary landscape evolution and human occupation in northwestern Argentina", Human Interactions with the Geosphere: The Geoarchaeological Perspective, L. Wilson
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Our study area is located in northwestern Argentina. It is a semiarid valley in which developed agricultural pre-Columbian settlements were located. The objectives of our research were to establish the geomorphological characteristics of the area, its relative chronological development, and the relationships between geomorphological development and pre-Columbian settlements.
Pre-Quaternary lithologies are represented by a metamorphic basement that is commonly exposed on slopes and belongs to the Precambrian and Cambrian periods. Tertiary sediments from several formations are exposed over an extensive surface forming cuesta relief landforms. Quaternary landscape units were classified according to their genesis into structural–denudational landforms (denudational slopes and structural scarps), denudational landforms (covered glacis), fluvio-alluvial landforms (alluvial fans, fluvial fans, and fluvial terraces) and aeolian forms (stabilized dunes).
Archaeological sites belonging to the Formative (500 BC–AD 1000) and Regional Development (AD 1000–1500) periods were identified. The main archaeological sites are located on the surfaces of debris-flow deposits and some covered glacis. They are characterized by the presence of residential units together with agricultural structures (terraces and irrigation channels). The earlier settlements (Formative period) are restricted to alluvial fan landforms (debris-flow deposits), where present hydrological supply is lower than in the rest of the study area. Later settlements (Regional Development period) are juxtaposed with earlier settlements in the south of the area, where present hydrological supply is higher owing to larger river catchments and moisture-laden winds from the SE.
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Human impact on our environment is not a new phenomenon. For millennia, humans have been coping with – or provoking – environmental change. We have exploited, extracted, over-used, but also in many cases nurtured, the resources that the geosphere offers. Geoarchaeology studies the traces of human interactions with the geosphere and provides the key to recognizing landscape and environmental change, human impacts and the effects of environmental change on human societies. This collection of papers from around the world includes case studies and broader reviews covering the time period since before modern human beings came into existence up until the present day. To understand ourselves, we need to understand that our world is constantly changing, and that change is dynamic and complex. Geoarchaeology provides an inclusive and long-term view of human–geosphere interactions and serves as a valuable aid to those who try to determine sustainable policies for the future.