Forest Fires and Abandonment Patterns from the Aguada Culture, Northwest Argentina

A Paleoenvironmental Study Based on the Analysis of Microcharcoals in the Ambato Valley, Catamarca Province

Henrik B. Lindskoug


This book deals with the disappearance of the Aguada Culture in the Catamarca Province Northwestern Argentina, focusing of the abandonment of several settlements in the Ambato Valley, which has shown evidence of fire and a rapid abandonment dated to around 900-1000 AD. A new method of analysing forest fires using microcharcoals was developed to examine the relationshA between the abandonment and forest fires. This approach, coming from the field of pedoanthracology, has given us new data on the palaeoenvironment of the area which help us to understand and examine the disappearance of the Aguada society in a new light. We conclude that that environmental factors were not the only ones that had an effect on a society under stress. Environmental factors are not a determinant, but are instead part of a social-environmental dimension in which several factors must have worked to push the society into a vulnerable situation. In terms of the abandonment of the Aguada settlements in the Ambato Valley, the study shows that frequent forest fires might have been a factor that played a role. However, based on the regularity of such events, as seen in the sediment history, it is unlikely that these were the only factor causing the abandonment of the valley.