7 May 2010

UQ will kick off National Archaeology Week by presenting one of the world’s leading experts on the ancient environment of the Amazon.

Dr Manuel Arroyo-Kalin, from the University of Durham in England, will be the guest speaker at UQ’s annual Hall Lecture on Friday, May 14.

Lecture organiser Professor Marshall Weisler said Dr Arroyo-Kalin was turning established thought about human activity in the Amazon on its head.

“This research is suggesting the Amazon is not the pristine and untouched rainforest we believed,” Professor Weisler said.

Co-organiser Dr Andrew Fairbairn said Dr Arroyo-Kalin’s work was showing that there may have been sustained agriculture in the area for at least 1000 years before Europeans arrived.

“As well as understanding ancient farming, the research is challenging the whole concept of primary tropical vegetation in the Amazon and showing that people may have greatly affected the remaining forests we see today,” Dr Fairbairn said.

“As elsewhere in the world, true ‘natural’ vegetation may not have existed in the Amazon for many thousands of years.”

Dr Fairbairn said the techniques being used to unearth this new theory were based on the field of geo-archaeology, where researchers study the soils themselves to build up a picture of what the land might have been used for.

“Manuel’s work looks at evidence of burning and changes to the landscape that are obviously done by humans, to piece together a completely different view of the Amazon prior to Europeans landing there,” he said.

The lecture will be held at the Abel Smith Lecture Theatre at UQ’s St Lucia campus, at 4.30pm on Friday, May 14. This will be followed by a reception at the UQ Art Museum with free wine and nibbles, but attendees must RSVP for catering purposes by emailing b.waugh1@uq.edu.au

The lecture, now in its fourth year, is in honour of Associate Professor Jay Hall who established the archaeology program at UQ in the 1970s.

For more information on other events happening during National Archaeology Week visit www.archaeologyweek.com

Media: Dr Andrew Fairbairn (3365 2780) or Andrew Dunne at UQ Communications (3365 2802, 0433 364 181).