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Monumental burials and memorial feasting: an example from the southern Brazilian highlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

José Iriarte
Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, Laver Building, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK (Email:
J. Christopher Gillam
Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, 1321 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
Oscar Marozzi
SAR, Servicios Arqueológicos, Uruguay


What happened at the sites of prehistoric burial mounds after they were erected? In the southern highlands of Brazil and Argentina the pre-Hispanic mounds of the twelfth-thirteenth centuries AD are surrounded by large circular enclosures with avenues leading to their centre. The authors discovered that the banks of the surrounding enclosure were built up over several generations of time, accompanied by a succession of ovens. Ethnohistoric observations of more recent peoples in the same region suggested an explanation: the cremation of a chief was followed by periodic feasts at his mound, where meat was steamed and maize beer prepared at the edge of the gathering.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2008

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