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This article presents results of ethnographic research on modern fishers and mollusk gatherers from the state of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil. Information from interviews is correlated with questions regarding the lifeways of groups that built large shell mounds along the Brazilian coast between 6,000 and 1,000 years ago. Ethnoarchaeological research helps deconstruct misconceptions regarding these prehistoric communities, demonstrating that large-scale sedentary groups could have successfully utilized estuarine resources on a year-round basis.
Well-known allergy literature attests to a presence of airborne starch granules from human and natural activities and illustrates that starch granules within pollen grains from starch-rich plants are released when pollen grains rupture in mid-air during thunderstorms. This study reports on starch granules extracted from Texas air samples and ruptured pollen grains from seven ethnographically important geophyte species, as well as maize (Zea mays L.). Starch granules from pollen grains are compared to those in storage organs of these plants. Results confirm that storage-like starch granules are airborne and that starch granules inside pollen can be indistinguishable from starch granules in the respective storage organs.
Indigenous cultures know a great deal about the landscape they inhabit, and their knowledge can be a valuable tool for ecologists. In order to explore how residents' knowledge might help characterize a large and diverse forest type in southeastern Peru, we asked plant experts of the local Cashinahua culture to predict whether the tree species recorded in a single 1-ha plot in upland forest were common on the surrounding landscape. We then compared their answers with data collected in four other 1-ha plots scattered over an area of about 7,000 km2. Cashinahua predictions matched tree plot data for 66% of the species examined. Species labeled as common by the Cashinahua included 9 of the top 11 most common species in the 5 plots and 39% of all trees in the plots. We discuss three obstacles to using local knowledge in large-scale vegetation studies: 1) the often-confusing relation between indigenous and Linnaean taxonomic nomenclature, 2) differing cultural conceptions of commonness and rarity, and 3) the limitations of describing tree species abundance via 1-ha tree plots. Where these limitations can be overcome, studies of large-scale vegetation patterns stand to benefit greatly from incorporating local knowledge of regionally abundant species.
Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion with well-defined initiation stages. Those who accept this religion must pass through a series of “obligations” in which they acquire rights of access to deeper levels of spiritual knowledge. This work analyzes the symbolic complex of animals utilized in the bori initiation ritual. Eleven Candomblé priests and priestesses were interviewed in the cities of Caruaru in Pernambuco State, and Campina Grande in Paraíba State, Brazil. Sixteen different animal species were used in these rituals: 12 fish and 4 birds. According to the myths of this religion, specific animals such as pigeons (Columba livia), Angolan chickens (Numida meleagris), and certain fish were involved in the creation of the world and appear within the bori conceptual system in association with their symbolic and mythical importance, and they transfer their characteristics to humans. In addition to describing these rituals (which are generally open only to followers), this work provides details concerning their dynamics and execution, thus contributing to ethnobiological studies dedicated to symbolic rites involving animals. This information allows us to visualize the integration of humans within a culturally constructed environment, for the success of the ritual depends on returning to a “mythical time” when animals helped the gods in creating the world. This relationship between humans and other animals reflects the importance of biodiversity to cultural maintenance.
This research explores variation in minor millets in the context of traditional knowledge (TK) and scientific knowledge (SK), including ethnobotany genomics, in southern India. In order to perceive biodiversity, we need to take a closer look at the natural variation among species within the context of existing classifications using both TK and SK. Malayali informants of the Kolli Hills in India were surveyed using 174 millet samples. We also collected seeds and grew millets in greenhouse environments from which we recorded 96 morphological characters and extracted DNA for barcoding. Quantitative multivariate classification analysis of these plants revealed that the Malayali millet classification is hierarchical and recognizes considerable fine scale variation with high consensus. In the field, the Malayali classified and consistently identified 19 millet ethnotaxa (landraces). Variation in these same samples was analyzed using morphometric and molecular characters (DNA barcoding) but revealed fewer taxa. Some of the cryptic taxa identified by the Malayali, including a potentially drought tolerant millet ethnotaxa, have considerable nutritional, medicinal, and ecological value.