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Research projects

Research projects

Research projects

Research projects

Please see the list below for the Centre's current research projects:

Dr José Iriarte

The unexpected discovery of immense geometrically patterned earthworks called 'geoglyphs' among the terra firme rainforests of western Amazonia is radically changing our notion of past human societies in this region of the Amazon. Over 400 of these spectacular geometric earthworks have been found across eastern Acre state, Brazil. Prior to the onset of large-scale deforestation in the 1980s, Acre state was completely blanketed by terra firme humid rainforest, assumed by most tropical ecologists to be pristine or virgin. Only after large-scale deforestation, did these previously hidden earthworks become visible. These earthworks comprise circles, squares, and other geometric shapes, between 90 and 300m diameter. Most occur on inter-fluvial uplands atop a 150–200m plateau. Their purpose, and scale of environmental impact associated with their construction, is still debated. Funded by National Geographic Society and in collaboration with archaeologist Denise Schaan we have started a project to investigate what was the past impact of the 'Geoglyph Builders' on this region of Amazonia and what is the modern legacy of their ancient land use. To tackle these questions we are using a multi-proxy approach, combining analyses of pollen, phytoliths, stable carbon isotopes, and charcoal, from radiocarbon-dated soil profiles and lake sediments from eastern Acre, which will be able to capture the rise and fall of the 'Geoglyph-Building' culture. Funded by AHRC, PhD student Jennifer Watling is currently conducting her dissertation on this project.

Dr Marisa Lazzari

Find out more about A social landscape without a centre - The circulation of artefacts, materials and skills in NW Argentina (first millennium AD) via our dedicated webpage.

This project developed the foundational steps to investigate the distribution and consumption patterns of raw materials in the south-central Andes, focusing on north western Argentina (NWA) during the first millennium AD (part of what is usually known as the Formative Period).

During this time sedentary communities established various connections that provided them with diverse resources, enabling their access to a social world beyond daily interaction. My work was built upon the long-standing interest on ancient social networks in the region, integrating the study of stone tools with provenance analysis of both stone and pottery artefacts. Their joint consideration showed how these materials responded to different social understandings and alliances, which often resulted in conflicting obligations. Together with my doctoral dissertation, this was the first and only social interaction study in NWA to jointly consider the provenance of materials traditionally studied separately.

This project aimed at expanding the available database in order to understand how the things that travelled with and between people enabled particularly fluid social formations. Thanks to this work, it was possible to develop a larger funded project on social landscapes in NW Argentina.

This project was funded by an AHRC Early Career grant in 2010. The project has now ended, but it has led to several ongoing impact-related research and outreach initiatives. More information on the project can be found on our dedicated website.

Living pasts, open futures: developing transnational collaboration on cultural heritage, identities, and landscape sustainability, led by Dr Marisa Lazzari (Exeter) and Professor Ian Lilley (Queensland), with Dr Gill Julleff (Exeter) and Professor Andrew Fairbairn (Queensland) as co-leads.

This now completed project sought to develop a platform for collaborative research and educational opportunities between the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland to investigate the intersections of cultural heritage, identity and landscape sustainability in a variety of locations around the globe. The main goal was to build upon existing synergies in the research activities currently underway at both institutions, focusing on the connections, as well as the contradictions, that enliven social spaces caught up between local and global policies, practices and philosophies of heritage.

Activities included the workshop “Living pasts, open futures: Heritage, Identities, Landscapes,“ which took place at the University of Exeter, Streatham campus (24 and 25 January 2019), a meeting held at the Camborne School of Mines, and site visits to various heritage locations in Cornwall (26-27 January 2019).

Living with water: challenging water insecurity in the Andean-Amazonian region, PI M Lazzari, CI: Prof R Howard, University of Newcastle. 1 February 2018-30 June 2018

This project integrated teams from the Universities of Exeter, Newcastle, and East Anglia, as well as from the Universidad del Centro (Ecuador) and the Universidad de San Simon (Bolivia) to jumpstart a programme of research to respond to the call for action from academia, water advocacy, and more significantly, Indigenous peoples in South America, that are demanding an urgent "cognitive restructuring" (Castro, 2010) that considers water in a different light, to guarantee access to it in the future. New research in the Arts and Humanities draw attention to the fact that what Western economics and policy define as 'resources' need to be understood as entities embedded in socio-material historical orders, linked to power relations, cultural understandings, senses of place and identity, and enmeshed in diverse ontologies. Focusing on living with water rather than on ‘water management’, the programme aimed at contributing to this much-needed transformation. The activities included a workshop at Exeter ‘Living with water: Challenging water insecurity in the Andean-Amazonian region’ (10-11 July 2018), with participants from Ecuador, Bolivia and the UK. The project activities enabled a sandpit for discussions, leading to research funding applications and ongoing collaborations.

Tangible pasts: developing new user-led heritage products for local communities in rural NW Argentina.
PI: M Lazzari, CIs. M Alejandra Korstanje (IAM-UNT-ISES-CONICET, Argentina), and Ioana Oltean (Archaeology, Exeter). 1 November 2017-30 June 2018.

This Project resulted in the multi-platform book entitled Territorios ancestrales: los primeros poblados del NO Argentino’ (Ancestral Territories: the first villages of NW Argentina, Sociedad Argentina de Antropologia.

The first phase of the project consisted in the exploration of a variety of platforms and contents to be used by indigenous rural communities in the study, protection and advancement of their heritage. We undertook consultation with target communities and developed different plans, including text adaptation and a range of illustrations. The project outputs include a website and a printed version of an educational book in collaboration with the Sociedad Argentina de Antropologia.

The main output of this project can be seen following this link:

I Oltean, M Lazzari, D Lungescu

This project is the preliminary exploration of land use and settlement on the western slope of the Aconquija sierra, NWA, through remote sensing methods. The projet was supported by a student internship from the College of Humanities. A poster was presented at the International Aerial Archaeology Conference, Constanta, 12-14 September 2019.

Connecting Strands on Current Indigenous Realities in the Americas: an interdisciplinary workshop on traditional territories, extractivism, and narratives of reconciliation in North and South America, Exeter PIs B Ounciul, M Lazzari; UBC: V Magnat, K Ragoonaden. 2019-21.

This project seeks to develop a UoE-UBC concerted platform for research and education on indigenous studies in the Americas across a variety of disciplines (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, history, heritage & cultural studies, education, politics, drama, geography). Exploring the relationship between indigenous communities with their heritage, land, and resources, the project examines interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to meet the challenges placed by extraction industries on indigenous cultural sustainability. 

Living territories: opening pathways for sustainable communities and their cultural-natural heritage in the Andes.  PI: M Lazzari, Co-I I Olean, Co-I: MA Korstanje (CONICET-IAM-UNT, Argentina). January-July 2021.

This project challenges contemporary paradigms that see the commodification of resources as the only possible pathway for development, seeking instead to offer evidence-based alternatives for community-led sustainable development. Focusing on the Andean region of NW Argentina, the project’s main aim is to pump-prime a series of tools to assist local indigenous communities in the development of their own strategies to meaningfully participate in the policies that assess and plan for development and sustainability. The project combines archaeological, remote sensing, spatial analysis and community-oriented activities to integrate standard archaeological, scientific and indigenous views on landscape and territory, developing a portfolio of outputs that will assist in future community-led collaboration and research planning.

View the Living territories website here:

Pathways towards collaborative approaches to indigenous and minority cultural heritage and landscape sustainability


This project seeks to develop collaborative research, exchange, and educational opportunities between Exeter (Archaeology, PI Marisa Lazzari; co-I Gill Juleff) and Geneva (Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Hub/Institute, GEDT/Department of Sociology, PI Peter Larsen) to investigate the intersections of cultural heritage and landscape sustainability within a global arena. Fostering a comparative outlook stemming from the experiences of indigenous and minority communities around the globe, the project will focus on (but not limited to) the Americas and the Asia-Pacific. We had two workshops, one online on 23rd August, and a meeting in Geneva on 21-23 October (see Past Events section).

Professor Bruce Bradley

Across Atlantic Ice is an on-going project involving multiple individuals and institutions, North America and abroad. The principle investigators are Professor Bruce Bradley (University of Exeter, UK), Dr Dennis Stanford (Smithsonian Institution), Dr Darrin Lowery (University of Delaware) and Dr Michael Collins (Texas State University). This project is exploring the evidence of the Ice Age settlement of Eastern North America and the possible link with southwestern Europe. Current investigations include the Gault Site in Texas, survey and recording of archaeological sites on the Eastern Seaboard, search of the North American continental shelf for mastodon remains (Cinmar Site) and various forms of analyses.

Find out more about The Gault project: Palaoindian and pre-Clovis archaeology in Texas on their designated webpage.