The Llanos de Moxos, or Beni Savanna, located in the Beni Department of northern Bolivia, contains extensive remains of pre-Columbian agricultural societies that were spread throughout the tropical savanna region. The remains testify to a well-organized and numerous indigenous people.
Llanos de Moxos
The Llanos de Moxos, located in the Beni Department of northern Bolivia, contains extensive remains of pre-Columbian agricultural societies that were spread throughout the tropical savanna region. The remains testify to a well-organized and numerous indigenous people.
These northern Bolivia lowlands, also known as the Beni Savanna, cover an area of over 128,000 sq km (49,400 sq mi), the third-largest savanna complex in South America. The region has one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in the Amazon Basin.
The Llanos de Moxos was the setting for pre-Columbian agriculture and appears to have been an early center of plant domestication.
In the 1960s, petroleum company geologists and geographer William Denevan were among the first to publicize the existence of extensive prehistoric earthworks constructed in the Amazon, especially in the Llanos de Moxos.
A University of Bern-led study shows that starting at around 10,850 years ago, inhabitants of the Llanos de Moxos region began to create a landscape that ultimately comprised 4,700 artificial ‘forest islands’ within a treeless, seasonally flooded savannah.
Many types of earthworks have been documented in the Llanos, including monumental mounds, raised fields for agriculture, natural and constructed forest islands, canals, causeways, ring ditches and fish weirs (an obstruction placed to trap fish).
Natural lagoons formed by ox-bow lakes were utilized and canals were dug to give an access route from nearby rivers, such as the Rio Mamoré, with many smaller channels interconnecting different ox-bow lake systems. Similar works have been detected along the Paraná, Paraguay and Amazon rivers.
Cultivation included manioc from about 8350 BCE, squash from about 8250 BCE and maize from about 4,850 BCE. Several domestic crops, including manioc, squash, peanut, some varieties of chili and some beans, are genetically very close to wild species living in the Llanos de Moxos, suggesting that they were domesticated there.
The people made decorated pottery, wove cotton cloth and in some places buried their dead in large urns. The human presence in the Llanos de Moxos dates back 10,000 years. Its interaction with the natural environment shaped a biocultural landscape over time. Construction lasted from about 8850 BCE to about 1450 CE.