Denise Schaan started her fieldwork research on Marajo Island in 1997, directing an Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) Project in an area between the Anajas and Atua Rivers. The Hidrovia do Marajo Project was meant to provide a short fluvial connection between Belém and Macapá, through the construction of a canal that would join the two rivers. Although the project never became a reality, surveys and excavations located and studied seven sites, within the area of impact. The PA-JO-49: Cacoal site, a late Marajoara settlement excavated in 1998, showed the persistence of Marajoara culture through the colonial period (A.D. 1,300 to A.D. 1,650), invalidating the early hypothesis that proposed the Marajoara culture had disappeared shortly before contact.

An in-depth study in the area took place in 1999, when other six sites were also excavated (PA-JO-50: Rio Branco, PA-JO-51: Saparará, PA-JO-52: Casinha, PA-JO-53: Vista Alegre, PA-JO-54: São Benedito, and PA-JO-55: Leal). Together, they represented nearly 1,300 years of occupation (from A.D. 300 to A.D. 1,600), encompassing Marajoara Phase. More interestingly, those sites were located on the periphery of the known Marajoara domain.

Parallel to the EIS project, Schaan started the Anajas Project, whose aim was to broaden the area of study, encompassing all of the prehistoric communities located on the Middle and Upper Anajas River area. Most of those sites belonged to the Marajoara culture, related to a society that was organized socially and politically at a regional level. For this reason, the study was meant to take into account the political, economic and cultural interactions among the populations who inhabited the various sites. This was done in order to address questions related to the process of cultural change that affected the entire region.

Within the Anajas Project design, it was important to understand the relations between the ceremonial centers located at the Anajas River headwaters and those settlements located further down the river. Initially, a group of mounds located along the Camutins stream (a tributary of the Upper Anajas River) was visited. It was the first step in order to review and extend previous surveys carried out by Meggers and Evans (in 1949) and Hilbert (in 1951). In March 1999, mound number 16 (M-16, Hilbert count) and the Cuieiras mound, where located, and were found to be almost completed destroyed, due to looting. At the Camutins main mound, a 2-meter profile was excavated, and charcoal samples were collected and dated. At that time the project obtained the first absolute radiocarbon dates for that mound: A.D. 750 (level 2 m) and A.D. 850 (level 1.15 m), showing an accumulation of one meter of sediment on the top of the mound during a period of nearly one hundred years.

In July 2000, with the help and support of Earthwatch volunteers, the Anajas Project (entitled then " Lost Civilizations of the Amazon") carried out the excavation of the PA-JO-52: Casinha site, located in the middle Anajas River area. The research aimed to investigate activity areas and the distribution of artifact types, in order to compare spatial organization there with other sites in the region. Despite the fact that the Casinha site was partially excavated during the EIS project the year before, it was not intensively studied because it was not located in the area of direct impact of the Hidrovia do Marajó Project. However, the site was considered important for its location: in a forested area, peripheral to the area of floodplains taken as characteristic of Marajoara settlement patterns. In that sense, this study improved the understanding of the settlement hierarchy and the expansion of Marajoara culture to other areas. At Casinha, the project identified and excavated both household and burial areas. Radiocarbon analysis dated the occupation between A.D.600 and A.D.1,200.

During July 2001, with the support of the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Latin American Studies (University of Pittsburgh), Schaan undertook another survey along the Camutins River. The fieldwork consisted of identifying and mapping the mounds located along the river margins. At that time, 28 of the 37 mounds situated along the Camutins river floodplain were visited, and mapped, updating and expanding the survey conducted by Meggers and Evans in the late 1940´s, when the technology did not provide the accuracy that the Geographical Positioning System (GPS) does today.

The data collected made it possible to conclude that the mounds were located on three distinct strategic sections of the river. At the lower Camutins stream there were two large ceremonial mounds (Camutins and Belém), flanked by two smaller mounds (respectively Camutinzinho and Arraial). In the middle course of the river there were ten habitation mounds, and at the upper Camutins stream there were both small ceremonial and habitation mounds.

In the second half of July, 2001, again with Earthwatch volunteers and their financial support, eight profiles were excavated in Mound-1 (the Camutins main mound). Four radiocarbon dates, ranging from A.D. 645 to A.D. 1,030, were obtained, relating to six meters of stratified deposits. The data reflects that at least part of the mound may have reached a height of four meters around A.D. 660, and seven meters around A.D. 1,000. During the excavations, the project identified baked clay floors, layers of charcoal, and a burial urn. All but one of the excavations were located next to the western limits of the mound, where the deposits were still intact. The mound had been partially destroyed, due to looting. A thick layer of black soil full of sherds covered part of the mound, as a result of looting, since they moved huge amounts of soil and discarded broken pottery, not good for sale.

From September to October 2002, with the support of the NSF - National Science Foundation, the mounds already mapped were again visited in order to collect pottery samples, and the Belém mound (the second in the hierarchy) was excavated. There, several features related to both household and cemetery areas were excavated. An extensive excavation of the burial area was completed later in November 2002 with the financial support of Earthwatch Institute and five volunteers. In a 20-meter square area, 24 different burials were excavated and studied. The data should provide a better understanding of household activities and gender at the local level, as well as also contributing to the understanding of the sociopolitical organization at the regional level.

The preliminary data from the Anajás Project was published in Antiquity (2000) and papers were presented at the 2001 meeting of Society of American Archaeology and at the 2001 meeting of the Society for Brazilian Archaeology. Denise Schaan is currently analyzing the artifacts collected during the 2002 field season, and the study should be completed by May 2004.

Fieldwork Participants, Laboratory Assistants, Co-Pis, Funding Sources and Support for the Archaeological Research in Marajo (1997 - 2003)
PI: Denise Schaan

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* Photos by Denise Schaan.