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Collapse of the pre-Columbian Monumental Mound Culture of Amazonian Bolivia.

   School of Geography and Environmental Science

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  Dr F Mayle  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Background: The Monumental Mound Culture (MMC) of Bolivia is probably the most complex pre-Columbian (pre-AD1492) society to have emerged in Amazonia. Located within the forest-savanna mosaic of the Llanos de Moxos (a vast wetland the size of England), this culture created a complex network of monumental habitation mounds interlinked with a sophisticated water-management system of canals and causeways. A key unresolved question is the underlying cause for the collapse of this complex society – deadly post-Contact European diseases, or instead pre-Columbian climate change? A robust chronology for the disappearance of the MMC is crucial to resolving this question but is so far lacking due to the paucity of data.       

The overall aim of this project: To determine the timing of collapse of the Monumental Mound Culture of Amazonian Bolivia.

Approach and Methods: This will be done via analysis of fossil pollen and charcoal from radiocarbon-dated lake and bog sediment cores close to habitation mounds, which will reveal the chronology of forest re-growth and cessation of anthropogenic burning following site abandonment. Fieldwork is not essential, although there are opportunities to visit the study area and receive training in coring techniques. This project complements the wider HERCA project (  

Informal enquires are welcome. Please email Professor Frank Mayle: [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

Enquiries are encouraged from those who wish to prepare an application for a PhD studentship to the SWW AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership for a start date of October 2023.
First degree at 2.1 (or overseas equivalent) in archaeology, geography or ecology, ideally with MSc degree in Palaeoecology or related subject area.


Bush, M., Nascimento, M., Akesson, C., Cardenes-Sandi, G., Maezumi, S., Behling, H., Correa-Metrio, A., Church, W., Huisman, S., Kelly, T., Mayle, F., and McMichael, C. (2021). Widespread reforestation before European influence on Amazonia. Science, 372 (6541), 484-487. ISSN: 1095-9203 | doi:
de Souza, J., Robinson, M., Maezumi, Y., Capriles, J., Hoggarth, J., Lombardo, U., Novello, V.F., Apaéstegui, J., Whitney, B., Urrego, D.H., Alves, D.T., Rostain, S., Power, M.J., Mayle, F.E., da Cruz Jr., F.W., Hooghiemstra, H., and Iriarte, J. (2019). Climate change and cultural resilience in late Pre-Columbian Amazonia. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 3(7), 1007-1017.
Whitney, B.S., Dickau, R., Mayle, F.E., Soto, J.D., and Iriarte, J. (2013). Pre-Columbian landscape impact and agriculture in the Monumental Mound Region of the Llanos de Moxos, lowland Bolivia. Quaternary Research, 80, 207-217. "
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