New data on archaeofaunal remains from artificial earthen mounds (lomas) in southwestern Amazonia reveal that swamp-eels (Synbranchus spp.) played an important role in pre-Columbian economies. To date, little attention has been paid to synbranchid taxa in the archaeological literature. Furthermore, information on their osteology and ecology is quite scant. In this paper, we use ichthyoarchaeological remains from the Loma Salvatierra site (Llanos de Mojos, Bolivia) in addition to references from the biological and zooarchaeological literature, to summarize and compare the distribution of synbranchid eels through time at pre-Columbian sites in the wetlands of Central and South America. Synbranchid eels are rarely documented as a food resource in present-day Brazil and Bolivia; however, Synbranchus marmoratus consumption has been documented for pre-Columbian and present-day Panama, where the species is called morena. Although swamp-eels were exploited and appreciated during the colonial period in some regions of South America, their consumption there seems to have been abandoned or greatly reduced during the last century.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3