Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 71, núm. 2, 2019, p. 229 ‒ 248



Uso del espacio semiárido por poblaciones prehispánicas: el papel de los paisajes de dunas como eco-refugios en el Centro de Argentina

Guillermo Heider1*, Esteban G. Jobbágy2, Alfonsina Tripaldi3

CONICET-CCT San Luis. Dpto. de Geología, Facultad Cs. Físico Matemáticas y Naturales. Universidad Nacional de San Luis. Ejército de Los Andes 950, San Luis (5700), Argentina.
Grupo de Estudios Ambientales - IMASL, CONICET, San Luis, Argentina. Ejército de Los Andes 950, San Luis (5700), Argentina.
3 IGEBA-UBA-CONICET, Departamento de Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Universitaria, Buenos Aires, C1428EHA, Argentina. 

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Both in the past as in the present, the native peoples who inhabited the arid and semi-arid zones of the entire planet have had water as a critical resource in their decision-making. From the human and natural sciences, contributions have been made to understand the patterns of the use of space of these groups and the management (in a very broad sense of the term, from the strictly economic to the symbolic one) of the water resource. The aim of this work is to understand the use of space and mobility of the human groups that inhabited a sector of the Arid South American Diagonal, located in the center of Argentina, from the interface of the geological, hydrological, and ecological sciences. The study area was known as “Las Travesías” from the time of the Hispanic-Indigenous contact due to the difficulties of crossing it, because of the lack of water and the low population. This European notion of the landscape is inappropriate in the light of the archaeological evidence of indigenous peoples in the territory since ca. 8000 years BP. These occupations suggest the presence of previously underestimated water resources. Combining the geomorphological and hydrological analyses of the dune landscapes, prevalent in a large part of Las Travesías, with the existing archaeological and ethnographic evidences, we propose a model of space occupation with greatest water deficit in South America and, in which, these landscapes have functioned as eco-shelters. These systems of dunes tend to hold groundwater with low salt content and shallowness due to the high drainage of the sandy substrate that allows a considerable fraction of the rains, even in arid climates, escape evapotranspiration and recharge the phreatic aquifer. Modern and ethnographic evidence suggests that the persistent occupation and disturbance of these dune systems increases their ability to provide water by damaging the vegetation cover, restricting evapotranspiration, increasing recharge, and depressing areas of the land by erosion, shortening the depth to the water table. A relatively small but efficient set of strategies for harvesting water, together with seasonal mobility and a deep knowledge of the space, are proposed as the strategies that allowed not only the exploration and initial colonization of Las Travesíasbut also the definitive occupation of this space.

Keywords: Prehispanic Human Occupation; South American Arid Diagonal; Dune landscapes; Eco-shelter; Geomorphology; Aquifer.