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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Constellations and Time Keeping used by Indigenous Communities in the Northwestern Amazonian Region

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This article is the result of research conducted from 2005 to 2007 in Brazil’s Amazon region. Relying on participant observation and ethnomathematics sources, on practical sky observation activities, and on classical sources about constellations observed in Brazil’s Amazon region, a sky mapping project was undertaken with Tukano, Desana and Tuyuka indigenous communities. At the Yupuri School, an astronomical calendar was created that integrates specific environmental and climate events based on descriptions of many constellations from different indigenous communities. This investigation found that in the northwest, Amazonian Indians mark rain periods, drought, planting and harvesting by the set and rise of major constellations. To complement these findings, non-Indian materials were also analyzed mainly from the researchers of the early 20th century who worked in the northwestern state of Amazonas.

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