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About our project

The study of the economic, social and ideological roles associated with the arrival of burial monuments and the creation of sacred, built landscapes is a core theme in researching Early Formative societies of the Americas. The
southern Jê of Brazil provides an exceptional opportunity to understand the synergy of ecology, history and power in the creation and transformation of landscapes in this pivotal period of prehistory. In southern Brazil, the turn of
the second millennium A.D. was a critical period marked by cultural transitions and environmental changes, which was reflected in a major increase in habitation sites, the arrival of mortuary/ceremonial architecture in the highlands, the development of anthropogenic soils in the Atlantic rainforest escarpment, and the appearance of Jê funerary patterns along the Atlantic coast. Significantly, these cultural changes are broadly contemporaneous with the abrupt expansion of Araucaria forest (Paraná pine) within ~100 years, the rapidity and timing of which raises the possibility of an anthropogenic cause. 

However, little synthetic interpretation of the southern proto-Jê has been carried out for three main reasons:

i) Firstly, despite more than forty years of archaeological research in the region, the highly localised and disconnected nature of these projects means that this wealth of archaeological data is highly dispersed and fragmentary – consequently, any potential broad-scale patterns or connections are difficult to discern.

ii) Secondly, although the southern Jê region is ideally suited for the investigation of pre-Columbian human-environment interactions (i.e., the potential relationship between the Jê culture and Araucaria forest expansion), such relationships have thus far been unexplored due to the paucity of palaeoecological studies from sites close enough to the cultural sequences.

iii) Finally, the southern Jê constitute one of the best examples of long-term cultural continuity, linking modern indigenous groups with their pre-Columbian ancestors. Unfortunately, the lack of collaboration between archaeologists and ethnographers has meant that the enormous potential for integrating the existing rich ethnohistoric and ethnographic records, to reveal the underlying principles of social and spatial organization of Jê culture, has not yet been exploited.

To address these important issues, the Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil Project has been conceived by an international, interdisciplinary team at Exeter, Reading and São Paulo Universities as a research programme, integrating archaeological, ethnographical and palaeoecological data sources, to investigate the creation and transformation of southern Jê landscapes in relation to the emergence of social complexity.

The project will integrate, for the first time, all archaeological data from the vast and ecologically diverse southern Jê landscapes into a comprehensive multilayered GIS database. In selected regions we are conducting more intensive archaeological, topographical and geophysical surveys, along with excavations at selected sites, throughout a longitudinal E-W transect in different environments to acquire regional, chronological and functional data. All accessible and relevant ethnohistorical and ethnographic data will be collected and analyzed to search for common underlying principles of Jê social and spatial organization that help us interpret the archaeological record.

In parallel, the reconstruction of the environmental changes is being revealed by using Palaeoecology. We retrieved sediment cores from lakes/bogs, and sample soil-pit profiles, to reconstruct the vegetation and fire histories of these regions for the last two millennia. This will allow us to: i) disentangle natural versus anthropogenic factors responsible for the expansion of the Araucaria forest that occurred during the last millennium, and ii) reconstruct past land-management practices. Click here to learn more about it.

We are proud to say that the investigation in this project involves using multiple disciplines that will allow us to reconstruct not just the past of human history, but also the environmental changes. 




Corteletti, R.; Dickau, R.; DeBlasis, P.; Iriarte, J. 2016. Análises de grãos de amido e fitólitos nas terras altas do sul do Brasil: repensando a economia e mobilidade dos grupos proto-Jê meridionais. Cadernos do LEPAARQ, Vol. XIII, n°25, 2016, ISSN 2316 8412, Pelotas, Brasil (

DeSouza, J. G.; Robinson, M.; Corteletti, R.; Cárdenas, M. L.; Wolf, S.; Iriarte, J.; Mayle, F.; DeBlasis, P. 2016.  Understanding the Chronology and Occupation Dynamics of Oversized Pit Houses in the Southern Brazilian Highlands. PLoS ONE 11(7)

DeSouza, J. G.; Corteletti, R.; Robinson, M.; Iriarte, J. 2016. The genesis of monuments: Resisting outsiders in the contested landscapes of southern Brazil. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (Print), v. 41, p. 196-212, 2016. (doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2016.01.003)

Iriarte, J.; Corteletti, R.;DeSouza, J. G.; DeBlasis, P. 2016.  Landscape dynamics in the La Plata Basin during the mid and late Holocene. Cadernos do LEPAARQ, Vol. XIII, n°25, 2016, ISSN 2316 8412, Pelotas, Brasil (



Cárdenas, M. L.; Corteletti, R.; Robinson, M.; Ulguim, P., F.; DeSouza; J. G.; Iriarte, J.; Mayle, F.; Farias, D. S.; DeBlasis, P. 2015. Integrating archaeology and palaeoecology to understand Jê landscapes in southern Brazil. Antiquity (Cambridge), v. 89, p. 4.

Corteletti, R.; Dickau, R.; DeBlasis, P.; Iriarte, J. 2015. Revisiting the economy and mobility of southern proto-Jê (Taquara-Itararé) groups in the southern Brazilian highlands: starch grain and phytoliths analyses from the Bonin site, Urubici, Brazil. Journal of Archaeological Science, v. 58, p. 46-61, 2015. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2015.03.017)

Riris, P. & Corteletti, R. 2015. A new record of pre-Columbian engravings in Urubici (SC), Brazil using polynomial texture mapping. Internet Archaeology 38. ( ia.38.7).

Ulguim, P. F. 2015. Analysing cremated human remains from the southern Brazilian highlands: Interpreting archaeological evidence of funerary practice at mound and enclosure complexes in the Pelotas River Valley. In Thompson, T. J. U. (ed.) The Archaeology of Cremation. pp 173-212. Oxford: Oxbow Books



Cardoso, J. M.; May Júnior, J. A.; Farias, D. S.; DeBlasis, P. 2014. Zooarqueologia do sítio Galheta IV: um enfoque nos vestígios do Pinguim-de-Magalhães (Spheniscus magellanicus, Spheniscidae). In Zocche, Jairo José, Juliano Bitencourt Campos, Nelson José Oliveira de Almeida & Cláudio Ricken (eds.) Arqueofauna e Paisagem, p. 155-170. Erechim, Editora Habilis. ISBN 978-85-60967-61-2.

DeBlasis, P.; Farias, D. S. & Kneip, A. 2014. Velhas tradições e gente nova no pedaço: perspectivas longevas de arquitetura funerária na paisagem do litoral sul catarinense. Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia 24: 109-136. São Paulo, MAE-USP.

Iriarte, J.; DeBlasis, P.; Mayle, F.; Corteletti, R.; Fradley, M.; Cardenas, M. L.; DeSouza, J. G. 2014. Paisagens Je meridionais: ecologia, história e poder numa paisagem transicional durante o Holoceno tardio. Cadernos do LEPAARQ XI(22):239-253, Pelotas. ISSN 2316 8412

Kneip, A.; DeBlasis, P.; Farias, D. S.; Mello, A. A. S. 2014. Reconhecimento de estruturas internas em um sítio através da análise estatística de um padrão espacial de pontos: o caso do sítio Galheta IV, Laguna/SC. In Campos, Juliano Bitencourt, Jairo José Zocche, Jedson Francisco Cerezer & Luiz Miguel Oosterbeek (orgs.) Arqueologia Ibero-americana e Transatlântica: arqueologia, sociedade e território, p. 89-106. Erechim, Editora Habilis. ISBN 978-85-60967-60-5.



Iriarte, J.; Moehlecke Copé, S.; Fradley; M., Lockhart, J.; Gillam, C. J. 2013. Sacred landscapes of the southern Brazilian highlands: Understanding southern proto-Jê mound and enclosure complexes. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32: 74-96. (doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2012.10.003)

Corteletti, R. 2013. Uma Estratigrafia da Paisagem Proto-Jê Meridional: Um Estudo de Caso em Urubici, SC. Tempos Acadêmicos, v. 11, p. 97-116.


Publications of previous projects 

Corteletti, R. 2012. Um estudo de caso sobre a relação entre a conservação dos sítios arqueológicos e o processo colonizatório. Revista Latino-Americana de História, v. 1, p. 99-122

Corteletti, R. 2012. Atividades de campo e contextualização do Projeto Arqueológico Alto Canoas ? PARACA; Um Estudo da Presença Proto-Jê no Planalto Catarinense. Cadernos do LEPAARQ (UFPEL), v. 7, p. 121-157.

Gessert, S., J. Iriarte, R. C. Ríos and H. Behling. 2011Late Holocene vegetation and environmental dynamics of the Araucaria forest region in Misiones Province, NE Argentina. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 166:29-37.

Iriarte, J., O. Marozzi and J. C. Gillam. 2010Monumentos funerarios y festejos rituales: Complejos de recintos y tumulos Taquara/Itarare en ElDorado, Misiones (Argentina). Arqueologia Iberoamericana 6:25-38.
[Open Access]

DeSouza, J. G. and Moehlecke Copé, S. 2010. Novas perspectivas sobre a arquitetura ritual do planalto meridional brasileiro: pesquisas recentes em Pinhal da Serra, RS. Revista de Arqueologia SAB 23:98-11.

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

Corteletti, R. 2008. Patrimônio Arqueológico de Caxias do Sul. Porto Alegre, Ed. Nova Prova. 200p.

Iriarte, J. and H. Behling. 2007The expansion of Araucaria forest in the southern Brazilian highlands during the last 4000 years and its implications for the development of the Taquara/Itararé Tradition. Environmental Archaeology 12:115-127.

DeBlasis, P.; Kneip, A.; Scheel-Ybert R.; Giannini P.C.; Gaspar, M. D2007. Sambaquis e paisagem: Dinâmica natural e arqueologia regional no litoral do sul do Brasil. Arqueología Suramericana / Arqueologia Sul-Americana 3, (1): 29-61, 2007.



Professor Lauri Schorn
FURB – Universidade Regional de Blumenau
Head of Silviculture Laboratory





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Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil

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