22nd May 2018

Critically-endangered South American forests were man-made

A new manuscript published in Scientific Reports uses a multidisciplinary methodology to explore the relationship between past peoples and the distribution of Araucaria forests in the southern Brazilian highlands.

In the highlands of southern Brazil an anthropogenically driven expansion of forest occurred at the expense of grasslands between 1410 and 900 cal BP, coincident with a period of demographic and cultural change in the region.  Previous studies have debated the relative contributions of increasing wetter and warmer climate conditions and human landscape modifications to forest expansion, but generally lacked high resolution proxies to measure these effects. We developed and tested a model of natural ecosystem distribution against vegetation histories, paleoclimate proxies, and the archaeological record to distinguish human from temperature and precipitation impacts on the distribution and expansion of Araucaria forests during the late Holocene.  Carbon isotopes from soil profiles confirm that in spite of climatic fluctuations, vegetation was stable and forests were spatially limited to south-facing slopes in the absence of human inputs. In contrast, forest management strategies for the past 1400 years expanded this economically important forest beyond its natural geographic boundaries in areas of dense pre-Columbian occupation, suggesting that landscape modifications were linked to demographic and subsistence changes, the effects of which are still visible today.

Check out the full open access article here


See news coverage here


3rd July 2017

Publication – Moieties and Mounds

New article in Latin American Antiquity now available online (link below) discussing dualism at a mortuary site in Campo Belo, southern Brazilian Highlands.

Excavation into the mound discovered a distinct spatial patterning to the cremation deposits that aligns with ancient and historic cosmological concepts and landscape management.

10th April 2017

SAA 2017 – Vancouver

Image result for saa vancouver


Je Landscapes was represented at the 2017 Society for American Archaeology conference in Vancouver.

Mark Robinson discussed the role of plants in southern proto-Je ritual, combining anthracology, with archaeology, ecology, and ethnography to identify and explore issues of plant selection and management.

In a session on Mortuary Practices and Funerary Archaeology, Priscilla Ulguim, reported on cremated remains in a paper titled: Fire and death: cremation as a ritualised funerary practice in the southern Brazilian Highlands.

The papers were well received and sparked long discussions after the session. We thank the organisers of the conference and the particular sessions for making the conference a great success.

15th February 2017

Sedentary farmers

Our project is the focus of an article published in this month’s Pesquisa FAPESP, the official magazine of the São Paulo Research Foundation. The article explores the changing image of the Southern Proto-Jê groups thanks to new data gathered by our team. Our archaeobotanical analyses, excavations at a variety of sites and intensive radiocarbon dating are helping to change the idea that the Southern Proto-Jê were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Instead, we are demonstrating long, stable occupations at permanent domestic sites, coupled with a mixed economy relying on several cultigens. Furthermore, the article emphasises the interdisciplinary aspect of our project and how new pollen data will help to uncover the relationship between humans and the expansion of the Araucaria forests in the past. Read it here!

19th November 2016

Jê Landscapes in Lages

Master’s student Luísa d’Avila presented research from the project in Lages, Santa Catarina, Brazil, at the conference, “250 Anos da cidade do Lages: Encontro do Historia e Geographia” (250 years of the city of Lages: Meeting of history and geography).

Her talk, “Pesquisas Arquelógicas na Serra Catarinense: o projeto paisagens Jê do Sul do Brasil” (Archaeological research in the Santa Catarina highlands: Jê Landscapes of southern Brazil), presented an overview of the archaeology of the southern Brazilian highlands, with specific examples from recent research in Campo Belo do Sul and Pinhal da Serra. Luísa presented her ongoing Master’s research, discussing the development of a settlement model for predictive modelling, and its subsequent ground-truthing.


recording a hidden mound and enclosure in Campo Beloimg_20161119_104442



14th November 2016

Jê Landscapes at International Palynology and Palaeobotany Congress XIV IPC X IOPC

The Jê project made two presentations at the International Congress of Palynology. These were:

‘Pre-Columbian human land use versus climate change: understanding Araucaria forest expansion during the Late Holocene in southern Brazil’
AUTHORS: Macarena L. Cárdenas, Francis E. Mayle, Jose Iriarte, Jonas Gregorio de Souza,Priscilla Ulguim, Mark Robinson, Rafael Corteletti, Paulo DeBlasis


‘Characterisation of the modern pollen rain-vegetation relationship of Araucaria forest of southern Brazil by analysis of moss polsters’
AUTHORS: Macarena L. Cárdenas, Francis E. Mayle, Lauri A. Schorn, Jose Iriarte

Both presentations were well received by the research community.



Macarena Cardenas presenting at the Conference

For more details of the presentations and the conference, including photos, click here.

17th October 2016

Exeter well represented at Enclosing Worlds conference

The conference brought together scholars from across the globe to discuss various aspects of enclosures from the archaeological world.

Jose Iriarte, Jonas Gregorio de Souza, and Mark Robinson enjoyed a great conference over the past week in Reguengos de Monsaraz, in southern Portugal (

Jose presented a broad discussion of the environmental and landscape context of the mound and enclosure architecture in the southern Brazilian Highlands in a paper titled “Sacred landscapes of the southern Brazilian highlands: Understanding southern proto-Jê mound and enclosure complexes”.

Mark explored how a nested dual social structure is manifest in the funerary landscapes, drawing from ethnohistoric accounts of the the Je moiety system in a paper titled, “Enclosed Dualism: Moieties and Mortuary Ritual in the Southern Brazilian Highlands”.

“The genesis of monuments: Resisting outsiders in the contested landscapes of southern Brazil”, by Jonas, presented data from the recent publication of the same name in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (De Souza et al. 2016).


We thank Antonio Valera and his teamfor organising a great conference


Jonas presenting

Jonas presenting

Jose presenting

Jose presenting


13th October 2016

Past Food: Jê flavors

“Past food” is a public outreach program integrating archaeology, gastronomy, ethnography and ethnology led by Museu Arqueológico de Sambaqui de Joinville. This edition will taste the “Jê flavors”.


5th October 2016

A Trip to the Highlands: Image-Based Modelling of Rock Art at Avencal I

Over the summer I travelled to Brazil as part of my doctoral research on cremated human remains from Jê sites in the southern Brazilian highlands. During the trip I spent several weeks at GRUPEP, our partner lab, analysing cremated bones from the archaeological site Abreu and Garcia. I also took a road trip back up to the highlands to revisit sites of the Serra Catarinense.

Cascata do Avencal (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Cascata do Avencal (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

You can read more about the full trip here (or in Portuguese), but one particular site I visited was Avencal I. This is interpreted as a ritual site and has different forms of engraved rock art, first recorded by archaeologists in the 1960s and 1970s, and more recently investigated by project participant Rafael Corteletti (RTI data in Riris and Corteletti 2015, and 2016 fieldwork photos here). The Avencal waterfall is visible from the site, which is set in a beautiful valley close to Urubici.

Recently, I’ve been writing up research for publication on the application image-based modelling using Structure from Motion – Multi-View Stereo algorithms in archaeology. So we decided to collect images of the engravings at Avencal I to verify the capability of different devices for rock art data capture.

The lighting at the site on a clear day is excellent; several of the larger panels are fully illuminated in the afternoon sun which made it easy to gather high quality images of the petroglyphs.

Now I’ve had some time to process the data, you can find a model of the engravings in Panels 3, 4 and 5 on SketchFab. Highlights include some of the larger geometric and anthropomorphic designs which were engraved into prepared surfaces on the rock face.

16th September 2016

Upcoming conference

Enclosing Worlds


Je Landscapes in Portugal.

Jose Iriarte, Mark Robinson, and Jonas Gregorio De Souza will be presenting research from southern Brazil at the Enclosing Worlds conference in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal, in October.

The meeting provides an opportunity to share case studies of enclosures from across the globe to discuss the social implications and social roles of these architectural features and the organisation of space.


For more information visit:

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