Landscape archaeology combines various ways of studying the environment and apprehends the natural habitat as a territory that has been populated, transformed, and farmed according to the specific needs of its inhabitants. It studies the relationship between man and his environment so as to better understand the way ancient communities functioned in their natural habitat. The associated method of analysis involves comparing environmental maps (maps of the terrain, vegetation, geology, and so on) with archaeological maps. The spatial analysis of this data is carried out using a Geographical Information System (GIS), a computerised means of observing correspondences between the places where sites are located and the properties of the land there (the soil type, altitude, vegetation, and so on).

The coastal area to the west of Kourou has been analysed in this way, revealing a specific mode of settlement there. Archaeological investigations have so far revealed six zones showing indications of human settlement in the pre-Columbian period. Cartographic analysis reveals that they all have the particularity of being on the higher land, systematically between two and seven metres in altitude (map 1). These areas of higher land in turn share the common characteristic of being currently covered by a type of forest that developed from the presence of coastal belts (map 2). By comparing and contrasting environmental and archaeological data it transpires, in the current state of knowledge, that old Amerindian communities living on the coastal plain tended to live on the sandy coastal belts (these belts are what remains of ancient shorelines).

These observations make it possible to put forward several hypotheses relating to the way these communities functioned in this coastal environment. It would appear that the decision to settle here may partly be explained by the fact that the belts were the only places of firm dry land rising up amidst the marshy and flood-prone savannahs. They were thus special in that there was no risk of their being submerged. This mode of settlement was a response to the constraints of this coastal environment which was regularly affected by rising water levels.

In terms of their subsistence, communities in this area were able to easily exploit the resources of the various habitats (saltwater, brackish water, and freshwater environments) and therefore live off the sea produce, marsh produce, and produce of the savannah and forest. However, if further investigations confirm the apparent absence of settlement in the southerly areas, it would then be possible to envisage the existence of societies here whose practices were more closely bound up with the sea than with the forest.