Posts Tagged ‘Andes’


On this day ten years ago…

via Maize may have fueled ancient Andean civilization

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Original article:




Macchu Picchu


AMERICAN SOCIETY OF HUMAN GENETICS, SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Ancient populations in the Andes of Peru adapted to their high-altitude environment and the introduction of agriculture in ways distinct from other global populations that faced similar circumstances, according to findings* presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2018 Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

John Lindo, PhD, JD, assistant professor of anthropology at Emory University, and a group of international collaborators headed by Anna Di Rienzo, PhD, at the University of Chicago and Mark Aldenderfer, PhD, at the University of California, Merced, set out to use newly available samples of 7,000-year-old DNA from seven whole genomes to study how ancient people in the Andes adapted to their environment. They compared these genomes with 64 modern-day genomes from both highland Andean populations and lowland populations in Chile, in order to identify the genetic adaptations that took place before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s.

“Contact with Europeans had a devastating impact on South American populations, such as the introduction of disease, war, and social disruption,” explained Dr. Lindo. “By focusing on the period before that, we were able to distinguish environmental adaptations from adaptations that stemmed from historical events.”

They found that Andean populations’ genomes adapted to the introduction of agriculture and resulting increase in starch consumption differently from other populations. For example, the genomes of European farming populations show an increased number of copies of the gene coding for amylase, an enzyme in saliva that helps break down starch. While Andeans also followed a high-starch diet after they started to farm, their genomes did not have additional copies of the amylase gene, prompting questions about how they may have adapted to this change.

Similarly, Tibetan genomes, which have been studied extensively for their adaptations to high altitude, show many genetic changes related to the hypoxia response – how the body responds to low levels of oxygen. The Andean genomes did not show such changes, suggesting that this group adapted to high altitude in another way.

The researchers also found that after contact with Europeans, highland Andeans experienced an effective population reduction of 27 percent, far below the estimated 96 percent experienced by lowland populations. Previous archaeological findings showed some uncertainty to this point, and the genetic results suggested that by living in a harsher environment, highland populations may have been somewhat buffered from the reach and resulting effects of European contact. The findings also showed some selection for immune-related genes after the arrival of Europeans, suggesting that Andeans who survived were better able to respond to newly introduced diseases like smallpox.

Building on these findings, Dr. Lindo and his colleagues are currently exploring a new set of ancient DNA samples from the Incan capital Cusco, as well as a nearby lowland group. They are also interested in gene flow and genetic exchange resulting from the wide-ranging trade routes of ancient Andeans.

“Our findings thus far are a great start to an interesting body of research,” said Dr. Lindo. “We would like to see future studies involving larger numbers of genomes in order to achieve a better resolution of genetic adaptations throughout history,” he said.


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field of Quinoa


Original Article


Archaeological remains found in southern Bolivia reveal a flourishing agrarian society from the 13th to the 15th centuries, despite marked drying and cooling of the climate throughout the period. This unexpected observation is the result of an interdisciplinary study conducted by an international team (CONICET, CNRS, IRD and UCSD). This research, published in Science Advances, highlights the adaptive capacity and resilience of societies with little hierarchical differentiation, in confronting the challenges of climate degradation.

Source: Unexpected agricultural production allowed pre-Hispanic society to flourish in arid Andes

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 Findings may help illuminate understanding of plant domestication and cultivation in the Andes Mountains. Josue Hermoza, Wikimedia Commons

Findings may help illuminate understanding of plant domestication and cultivation in the Andes Mountains. Josue Hermoza, Wikimedia Commons

Original Article:


Researchers provide evidence for the early cultivation and use of potato (Solanum tuberosum) at an archaeological site in the Andes Mountains of south-central Peru. Studying the domestication of the potato, an important crop in the high Andes, could help illuminate the development of highland Andean culture, but limited direct botanical evidence of potato domestication in the region has hindered research efforts. Claudia Rumold and Mark Aldenderfer* collected microbotanical samples from groundstone tools from Jisakairumoko, a site situated in the western Titicaca Basin of Peru that reflects a transition from sedentism to food production. On 14 groundstone tools, the authors found 141 starch microremains, and microscope photographs and subsequent taxonomic identification revealed that 50 of the starch granules were of Solanum origin. The potato starches were similar in size to modern potato starches, and anthropogenic wear on the starches was consistent with culinary processing methods. The findings might help us understand the development of food production in Jisakaurumoko, and more broadly, illuminate plant domestication and cultivation in the Andes Mountains.


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Topic: Farming in Peru:

My thoughts:

The Post on the Chinook Indians, Ft Clatsup is taking a bit longer than I hoped-but I should post on Wednesday!


Back to topic:

cotton ball dated to 5500 BC

Anthropologists working on the slopes of the Andes in northern Peru have discovered the earliest-known evidence of peanut, cotton and squash farming dating back 5,000 to 9,000 years. Their findings provide long-sought-after evidence that some of the early development of agriculture in the New World took place at farming settlements in the Andes.

The discovery was published in the June 29 issue of Science.

The research team made their discovery in the Ñanchoc Valley, which is approximately 500 meters above sea level on the lower western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru.

“We believe the development of agriculture by the Ñanchoc people served as a catalyst for cultural and social changes that eventually led to intensified agriculture, institutionalized political power and new towns in the Andean highlands and along the coast 4,000 to 5,500 years ago,” Tom D. Dillehay, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University and lead author on the publication, said. “Our new findings indicate that agriculture played a broader role in these sweeping developments than was previously understood.”

Dillehay and his colleagues found wild-type peanuts, squash and cotton as well as a quinoa-like grain, manioc and other tubers and fruits in the floors and hearths of buried preceramic sites, garden plots, irrigation canals, storage structures and on hoes. The researchers used a technique called accelerator mass spectrometry to determine the radiocarbon dates of the materials. Data gleaned from botanists, other archaeological findings and a review of the current plant community in the area suggest the specific strains of the discovered plant remains did not naturally grow in the immediate area.

“The plants we found in northern Peru did not typically grow in the wild in that area,” Dillehay said. “We believe they must have therefore been domesticated elsewhere first and then brought to this valley by traders or mobile horticulturists.

“The use of these domesticated plants goes along with broader cultural changes we believe existed at that time in this area, such as people staying in one place, developing irrigation and other water management techniques, creating public ceremonials, building mounds and obtaining and saving exotic artifacts.”

The researchers dated the squash from approximately 9,200 years ago, the peanut from 7,600 years ago and the cotton from 5,500 years ago.

Dillehay published the findings with fellow researchers Jack Rossen, Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y.; Thomas C. Andres, The Curcurbit Network, New York, N.Y.; and David E. Williams, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Dillehay is chair of the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt, Professor Extraordinaire at the Universidad Austral de Chile and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

The research was supported by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Lima; the National Science Foundation; the Heinz Foundation; the University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University.

Original article:


July, 2007

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Topic: Coca Leaves 

dried coca leaves


The modern coca plant has ancestors with the same chemical properties


While not eaten as such, still this article is an interesting read-remember coke used to contain traces of cocaine when it was first marketed and was perscribed for a number of medical conditions!

Peruvian foraging societies were already chewing coca leaves 8,000 years ago, archaeological evidence has shown.

Ruins beneath house floors in the northwestern Peru showed evidence of chewed coca and calcium-rich rocks.

Such rocks would have been burned to create lime, chewed with coca to release more of its active chemicals.

Writing in the journal Antiquity, an international team said the discovery pushed back the first known coca use by at least 3,000 years.

Coca leaves contain a range of chemical compounds known as alkaloids. In modern times, the most notable among them is cocaine, extracted and purified by complex chemical means.

But the chewing of coca leaves for medicinal purposes has long been known to be a pastime at least as old as the Inca civilisation.

Other alkaloids within the leaves have mildly stimulating effects, can reduce hunger and aid digestion, and can mitigate the effects of high-altitude, low-oxygen environments.

Evidence of the chewing of the leaves has been found from around 3,000 years ago, but the addition of calcium-rich substances – which draw out far more of the alkaloids – was seen to be a much more recent development.

Now, Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University in the US and his colleagues have found evidence both of chewed leaves and calcium-rich rocks that were burned and scraped to supply ash for chewing.

The evidence was found beneath the buried floors of the homes of foraging peoples from northwestern Peru, where the conditions were favourable to preserve what is normally a fleeting, organic remnant of a bygone civilisation.

The samples were dated to about 8,000 years, but Dr Dillehay told BBC News that a further surprise was the distribution of the finds.

“We found it not so much in a household context, as if it was something that was heavily used by a lot of people, but rather… restricted to certain households of individuals and produced in a sort of public context – not individualised,” he explained.

“The evidence we have suggests that unlike in Western societies – where if you’ve got the economic means you can have access to medicinal plants – that seems not to be the case back then.”

More than providing an archaeological perspective on the ancient civilisation, however, the find provides evidence that feeds into a current debate.

International moves are being made to curb coca production in the Andes because of its association with cocaine, but Dr Dillehay argues there is far more to the plant.

“Some have argued that (coca chewing) is a fairly recent historical tradition – meaning the last several centuries or a thousand years – but it’s a deeply-rooted economic, social and even religious tradition in the Andes.”

Peter Houghton of King’s College London, editor of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, told BBC News that the finds were “significant” in terms of pushing the date back for the first known coca chewing – in particular finding both leaves and calcium-bearing rocks in the same place.

That the consumption appears to have been restricted to few would not be surprising, he told BBC News.

“The evidence is that the widespread use amongst the people in that part of Peru and Bolivia is a comparatively recent thing; before then it was restricted to a privileged class.”

Original article:


By Jason Palmer


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Topic: Maze-South Americia

Maize In BoneIn a new study, a skeleton found at a roughly 1,000-year-old site in Peru’s Andes mountains yielded chemical evidence of substantial maize consumption. Inhabitants of the highland city artificially modified the specimen’s skull, shown here.B. Finucane

Prehistoric communities in one part of Peru’s Andes Mountains may have gone from maize to amazingly complex. Bioarchaeologist Brian Finucane’s analyses of human skeletons excavated in this region indicate that people living there 2,800 years ago regularly ate maize. This is the earliest evidence for maize as a staple food in the rugged terrain of highland Peru, he says.

Maize agriculture stimulated ancient population growth in the Andes and allowed a complex society, the Wari, to develop, Finucane contends in the August Current Anthropology. Wari society included a central government and other elements of modern states. It lasted from around 1,300 to 950 years ago and predated other Andes civilizations, including the Inca.

Scientists disagree about when and how civilizations formed in the Andes. One theory holds that complex societies, which perhaps fell short of states with centralized bureaucracies, first appeared at least 3,600 years ago in fishing villages along Peru’s coast and then spread inland. Based on remains of various wild and domesticated plants found at inland sites, other researchers suspect that agriculture had an especially big impact on the establishment of highland societies, beginning roughly 2,500 years ago. Questions also remain about whether prehistoric Andean civilizations depended primarily on maize or on a suite of crops including potatoes and beans.

Previous work has shown that prehistoric societies in the lowland areas of Central and North America depended on maize to grow large enough in numbers to develop state institutions, a pattern that Finucane sees paralleled in the Andes Mountains.

“These new findings indicate that intensive maize agriculture was the economic foundation for the development of the Wari state,” says Finucane, currently a law student at Yale University.

Digging Up DietsNew evidence for maize as a dietary staple among prehistoric inhabitants of the Andes mountains included chemical data from several skeletons previously excavated from a set of tombs (inset) at the capital of the Wari state. A protective wall, shown here, surrounded the ancient capital.B. FinucaneThe new data convincingly demonstrate that highland residents relied on maize shortly before the rise of the Wari state, comments archaeologist Daniel Sandweiss of the University of Maine in Orono. A warmer, wetter climate during the Wari period and the spread of terraced cultivation areas may also have spurred maize farming, he suggests.

Not directly addressed by Finucane’s findings is whether ancient fishing villages provided the basis for later Andean civilizations, such as the Wari, says Sandweiss, a proponent of that hypothesis.

Finucane analyzed the chemical composition of bones from 103 individuals excavated by other researchers at six prehistoric sites in Peru’s Ayacucho Valley, one of several Andean regions where early civilizations arose. Ratios of certain chemical isotopes that collect in bone reflect the types of foods that an individual consistently consumed over at least the last decade of life.

Radiocarbon measurements of human bones at each site yielded age estimates that ranged from 2,800 years to 900 years. This time span encompasses three eras of Ayacucho prehistory: the Formative period of small farming villages, the Huarpa period of expanded settlements and irrigated fields, and the Wari period of centralized bureaucracy and state government.

Chemical signatures of substantial maize consumption appeared in the bones of individuals from every Ayacucho site, including three from Formative period sites, Finucane says.

Only a relatively small part of the Andean valley contains soil suitable for maize cultivation. Competition for cropland, he speculates, may account for evidence of considerable warfare during the Huarpa and Wari periods.

Finucane “makes a strong case” for maize as a key food in the Ayacucho Valley by about 1,800 years ago, but not 2,800 years ago as argued in his new paper, remarks Yale University anthropologist Richard Burger, who was not involved in the study. Only one skeleton in Finucane’s sample can be definitively dated to the Formative period, and signs of maize consumption in that specimen remain preliminary, in Burger’s view. 

Finucane’s proposal is not out of the question, though. Another recent study of bone isotopes suggests that maize was regularly eaten at highland Andes sites in Argentina beginning around 4,000 years ago, says anthropologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Tykot co-authored that investigation.

Chemical analyses are needed of other human skeletons that have been found at Formative period sites, Burger adds. Investigations of prehistoric diets in Andes valleys located at higher altitudes than Ayacucho will offer additional insights.

Original Article:

By Bruce Bower, July 8,2009

Science News


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