A new study from BioArCh

News | Posted on Thursday 9 November 2023

Researchers in the department of Archaeology conduct the first large-scale investigation into the eating habits of the Guarani.

A team from the University of York’s BioArch Group in collaboration with the University of Barcelona has led the first large-scale investigation into the diet and cuisine of the indigenous Guarani people of coastal Brazil.

Over several thousands of years the Guarani lived in inland Brazil, using well-established farming and crop-raising techniques. Around 1,000 years ago a major migration saw the people spread all over South America, raising the question of whether those who settled near the coast continued to use their farming knowledge, or instead turned to the seas for food.


Dr Marjolein Admiraal led the study, she explained the significance of the findings: “What is interesting is that this shift happened just before the Europeans arrived in South America,” she said. “Early explorers describe the ways of the people in the area, but they’re actually missing the deep history of skilled marine hunters and fishermen that would have still been active only a few hundred years before.”

She said this new knowledge could lead to a greater understanding of how the people may have affected the ecosystem - and might affect ecosystems today. 


She said: “Knowing about this shift, and understanding this part of the history of marine exploitation in the area, is important because this can impact what we know about changes in the ecosystem and the role of humans in those changes in the long term.”

She also hopes the report will lead to better management and, where necessary, protection of coastal areas, as well as a greater respect for fishermen in their communities.

“Showing that the coastal environment was essential to ancestral indigenous groups in the region may also impact future management and protection of certain areas,” she said. “

“It can also help improve the perception of present-day fishermen, these people are often poor, while in the past skilled fishermen likely had prominent roles in society.”