Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Ever since arriving in the New World, people from the Old World have never tired of telling stories of El Dorado, a mythical kingdom of gold, somewhere in the interior of South America. When Jesuit missionaries came to eastern Bolivia in 1665, they also were looking for an opportunity to build a utopia, a Christian world based on their own ideas. What they found were the descendants of a group of agricultural societies, very different from anything that they had encountered before, in Mexico, Peru, or anywhere else. The Llanos de Mojos is a fascinating example of how communities that lived far outside of any state or even state-like organization, were able to build systems of intensive agriculture, maintain high populations, and create a cosmopolitan society of dozens of different languages. Living just down the mountain from the societies of the Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano, the pre-Columbian Mojenos were the inheritors of a legacy of plant domestication that included crops like peanut, beans, and manioc, which feeds more than 500 million people today. This talk highlights the latest in archaeological and interdisciplinary research from this fascinating and lesser-known region.