Rock art, trade routes, and languages in prehistoric Amazonia: Exploring correlations through GIS

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


The aim of this paper is to investigate how Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping of materialized aspects of human culture in pre-conquest Amazonia can increase our understanding of the distribution of indigenous languages and ethno-linguistic entities. The main objective of the project is to build a GIS database for correlating geography, linguistics, material culture (e.g., ceramic styles, rock art styles, horticultural systems, etc.), trade routes, and political projects over time, in order to gain further understanding of the forces behind the extraordinary linguistic diversity in Amazonia. This presentation will exemplify this methodology, focusing on the relationship between symbolism (as expressed in the frog motive in rock art and green stone amulets), trade routes, and language families. By correlating the distribution of symbolic expressions, such as the frog motive, with known trade routes and the distribution of language families at the time of contact, it is possible to test or at least illuminate various hypotheses on the emergence and history of specific ethno-linguistic groups. One such hypothesis, offered here as an example, is that the wide distribution of Arawakan languages in greater Amazonia (from the Antilles to Bolivia) is the imprint not so much of ancient migrations as of a network of trade routes spanning much of the continent several centuries before European contact.


  • Love Eriksen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social and Economic Geography


  • trans-disciplinary analyses, Prehistoric Amazonia, archaeology, geographical information system, GIS, material culture, ecology, ethno-linguistic groups, regional system integration, human ecology, humanekologi
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
EventThe Origin of Man, Language and Languages (OMLL) - Final Conference - Rome
Duration: 2007 Dec 12 → …


ConferenceThe Origin of Man, Language and Languages (OMLL) - Final Conference
Period2007/12/12 → …

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