Nukak: Ethnoarchaeology of an Amazonian People

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From Gustavo Politis, one of the most renowned South American archaeologists, comes the first in-depth study in English of the last "undiscovered" people of the Amazon. His work is groundbreaking and urgent, both because of encroaching guerrilla violence that makes Nukak existence perilously fragile and because his work with the Nukak represents one of the last opportunities to conduct research with hunger-gatherers using contemporary methodological and the theoretical tools. Through a rich and comprehensive ethnoarchaeological portrait of material culture "in the making," this work makes methodological and conceptual advances in the interpretation of hunter-gather societies. Politis's conclusions, based on six years of original research and on comparative analysis, are integrative and contribute to the identification of the multiple factors involved in the formation of hunter-gatherer archaeological assemblages.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Gustavo Politis is a professor of archaeology at the Universidad Nacional del Centro, Buenos Aires, Argentina, is one of the most renowned South American archaeologists in the English-speaking world. He has held visiting lectureships around the world, including at Cambridge University, University of Southampton, and Stanford University. He is author and editor of many books, including Archaeology in Latin America (ed. with B. Alberti, Routledge, 1999), and has contributed to many key reference books, including Theory in Archaeology, The Blackwell Companion to Social Archaeology, Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, and Unknown Amazon.

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Table of Contents

Preface     11
Acknowledgments     13
Illustrations     17
Tables     23
Introduction     25
The Nukak and the Maku     31
Recent History of the Nukak     36
History of Contact     38
Previous Studies     43
Environment     47
Physiography and Soils
Plant Physiognomy of the Environments in Nukak Territory
Final Considerations     53
Theory and Methods: Ethics and Techniques     55
On Ethnoarchaeology     58
Ethnoarchaeology in South America     63
Fieldwork     66
Data Collection: Methods, Techniques, and Problems     69
Ethics     72
Concluding Remarks     74
Sociopolitical Organization and Cosmology     77
Sociopolitical Organization     77
Ideology and Cosmology     84
Final Considerations     92
Shelters and Camps     99
Architecture of the Shelters     100
The Residential Camp     106
The Construction of Residential Camps     114
Other Types of Camps     119
Transitory Camps
Small Shelters Peripheral to ResidentialCamps
Small Shelters between Camps
Rectangular Constructions in Chagras, or the "House of the Tapir"
Final Remarks     127
The Use of Space and Discard Patterns     131
Residential Camp Activity Areas     132
Discard Patterns during Residential Camp Occupation     137
Abandonment Refuse     145
The Symbolic and Communicative Dimension of Waste     152
Discussion     153
Residential and Logistical Mobility: Daily Foraging Trips     161
The Multiple Dimensions of Territory     162
Residential Mobility     165
Logistical Mobility     170
Daily Foraging Trips     171
Final Considerations     179
Traditional Technology     189
The Nukak and the Adoption of Western Technology     193
Traditional Technology     196
Hunting and Fishing Weapons
Other Elements Used in Food Procurement
Plant Product Procurement and Food Preparation Utensils
Furnishings and Accessories
The Social and Ideological Dimensions of Nukak Technology     224
Final Considerations     229
Subsistence     237
Nondomesticated Plants     240
Animal Resources     256
Insect and Insect By-Product Resources      263
Fish and Aquatic Animals     267
Cultivation     275
Food from the Colonos     278
The Ideational Aspect of Food     278
The Annual Circle and the Creation of Wild Orchards     281
Discussion     285
Conclusion     288
Animal Exploitation, Processing, and Discard     291
Hunted and Taboo Animals     294
Hunting and Processing Strategies     300
White-Lipped Peccary
Bone-Discard Pattern     315
Archaeological Visibility of Butchering Patterns and Bone Discard     316
Transport     319
Conclusions     321
Final Considerations     325
The Nukak as Hunter-Gatherers     325
Territory and Mobility     329
The Use of Plants     333
Technology     335
Hunting and Food Taboos     337
The Western View of Amazonian Hunter-Gatherers     341
Final Words     343
Sample of Daily Foraging Trips     345
Patterns of Bone Representation and Surface Bone Modification Caused by Nukak Prey Acquisition   Gustavo A. MartInez     357
Material and Methods      358
Sample Analysis     362
Discussion     366
Conclusions     373
Bibliography     377
Index     407
About the Author     412
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