Shell middens are archeological features consisting mainly of the remains of marine animals thrown away near settlements over hundreds or thousands of years. They are the debris of human activity. In Brazil, they are known by the Tupi word sambaqui.
The sambaquis were left by people who lived between 8,000 and 1,000 years ago in coastal Atlantic Forest areas, traditionally considered peripheral to South America’s first food production centers in the Andes and the Amazon.
A new study, however, presents strong evidence that sambaqui societies were not ordinary hunter-gatherers. Analysis of their middens shows that they cultivated or at least managed edible plants and had a rich diet with a substantial proportion of carbohydrates. Fapesp — São Paulo Research Foundation- FAPESP has supported the study.
Findings from the study have recently been published in Royal Society Open Science. It was conducted by researchers from Brazil and the United Kingdom using