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On this day ten years ago…
via Trophy Skulls and Beer

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Lama

Forbes.com

 

An archaeologist working at a site along the north coast of Peru recently discovered a cooking pot carefully buried under a house floor. The simple, well-used pot contained portions of a llama’s face as well as a mishmash of other ingredients that may have been chosen for what they represented rather than how they tasted.

The pot was discovered at Wasi Huachuma, a site dating to between 600-850 AD. This period of history involved increased urbanization, irrigation, and other changes to the Moche culture in Peru. By the end of the era, environmental and political instability had led to interpersonal conflict. Wasi Huachuma was positioned just a few kilometers from three different centers of power in this unstable environment, and itself had seven distinct sectors. The most complex part of the site included residential structures, terraces, and a cemetery.

Underneath one house floor in this complex sector was a standard cooking pot, “on its side, with the mouth opening to the east and splash zone of botanical and faunal materials surrounding it,” found by archaeologist Guy Duke of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, who published his analysis in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. Its shape, he noticed, was similar to those found elsewhere in this time period in Peru, often used for boiling and brewing chicha (corn beer) and stews.

The pot was not a new one; Duke saw evidence of burning on the outside and inside that suggested it had been used before. And the contents of the pot were surprising. Duke reports that he found bones from domestic animals in the pot, including guinea pig and llama that had been raised locally. Additionally, maize, common beans, squash, potato, and chili pepper were found, along with crabs, flathead mullet, and the plant coca.

“While the method of cooking was simple – add ingredients plus water to the pot, heat to boil,” Duke says,  “understanding how and whether to apply particular knowledge was dependent on the material.” For example, butchering the llama to extract the jaw piece requires different skills than cleaning a deep sea fish or preparing potatoes and squash. Even more importantly, most of the stew’s ingredients had ritual significance based on what archaeologists know about the Moche culture. Camelids like llamas produced wool, were eaten, and were also ritually important; maize or corn figures into Moche iconography; fish were sometimes burial offerings.

All of these ingredients, while commonly eaten, did not add up to any known Moche stew recipe. Because the stew pot was buried underneath a house, purposefully marked by a stone, Duke surmises that “the vessel and its contents were a dedicatory offering of some sort.” He explains that “this deposit, in this location, was purposeful, intentional, and laden with meaning. Each element of it was chosen from an array of materials available, some from the local fields and seas, some from much further afield, though not necessarily any less familiar. The materials assembled in this dedicatory deposit neatly bundle together the various geographic and environmental regions accessed by the Moche.”

Zooarchaeologist Tanya Peres of Florida State University is impressed by Duke’s work, telling me that his research “is critical in teaching us about the nuanced ways in which food items, cookware, and culinary tools, when analyzed contextually, lend us information about foodways, social and ceremonial meanings.” Peres is particularly intrigued by what the pot may have meant to the person or people who put it there. “Were the animal and plant remains placed in the vessel at different points in the Moche calendars? Might this be evidence of an older generation maintaining the old customs? Or a younger generation adopting new ways of practicing Moche culture?”

Duke essentially sees the pot and its stew as an “amalgam of products with a variety of social significances, from the practical to the supernatural, all of which were part of the everyday lived experience of a Moche person.” Peres agrees and notes that “the way Duke tells the story of the pot, the entirety of Moche culinary knowledge is wrapped up in this one vessel. It is a compelling, evidence-based foodways story.”

While the discovery of the stew pot and its contents is unique in ancient Peru, Duke believes that “the convergences of these foods, these practices, at this obscure site highlight the intricate interconnectedness of the surrounding area and the regions beyond. This singular deposit encapsulates the role of the everyday in the special and, perhaps even more importantly, the special in the everyday.”

 

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Original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

 

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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The batches of chicha cooling before they are strained and added to a ceramic fermentation jar. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Cerro Baúl Archaeological Project

 

Original Article:

ByElizabeth Shockman

pri.org

 

Towering 2,000 feet above its surroundings in the southern Peruvian Andes, the Cerro Baúl mesa stands alone in a sun-baked, arid mountain zone. It was here that the Wari culture, a mighty empire that predated the Incas, built a colony — and a massive brewery.

“The Wari were one of the earliest expansive states in the Andes,” says anthropologist Patrick Ryan Williams. “They emerged in the central highlands of Peru some time before 600 AD. … At the height of their reign they actually held sway over an area 800 miles along the Andes.”

That’s similar to the same distance as between New York City and Jacksonville, Florida today — a really big expanse of land.

And, Williams says, they encountered all these different tribal groups and ethnic groups of different peoples that were incorporated into their realm. “The beer story is one that plays a lot in terms of understanding how they did that.”

The beer that Williams and his wife, anthropologist Donna Nash, are studying is not actually a beer. It’s a drink called chicha — a word used to describe fermented grains, fruit products or other things that were found in the native Americas.

In the case of the Cerro Baúl mesa, the chicha appears to have been made from corn flavored with a small Peruvian pepper berry.

Nash and Williams pieced together the ancient recipe based on pepper berry dregs discovered at the site and also chemical residues found on recovered archaeological vessels used in the brewing process.

The brewery, according to Nash and Williams, was capable of pumping out 500-gallon batches of the pepper berry-flavored corn beer, or chicha de molle. And the drink, while most likely consumed by the Wari on a daily basis, was also used for trade negotiations, calendar events, celebrations, marriages and funerals.

Nash, together with her team and a group of Peruvian women, was able to create a chicha brew with a chemical content very similar to the ancient residues found on excavated vessel fragments.

For anyone interested in getting a taste of the ancient drink, Chicago’s Field Museum has a chicha-inspired beer on tap for sale in their bistro.

“It’s pretty good,” Williams says, “It’s got a little bit of a sour taste to it. It does use the purple corn and the Peruvian pepper berries, which have been imported from Peru. But it’s also a beer so it has hops and a barley malt, so it’s inspired, not a recreation of this exact recipe.”

Williams and Nash are continuing further excavation of the Cerro Baúl mesa site, but they say the excavated brewery has already told them a lot about the ancient Wari people.

“The Wari as an empire liked to do expensive and elaborate things. And building a citadel on top of a mesa was one example of the kind of expense they went to as part of their empire,” Nash says.

“I think they were really trying to impress their neighbors by putting a brewery on top of this isolated mountain with no natural source of water no food,” Williams adds, “They were trying to show off.”

A Wari drinking vessel from Cerro Baúl with a half-gallon capacity, depicting the face of a principal Wari deity.

 

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Tiffiny Tung excavates at Beringa, Peru (Courtesy Tiffiny Tung)

Tiffiny Tung excavates at Beringa, Peru (Courtesy Tiffiny Tung)

Wari Ale gets its bright pink color from Peruvian molle berries and purple corn. (Courtesy of The Field Museum)

Wari Ale gets its bright pink color from Peruvian molle berries and purple corn. (Courtesy of The Field Museum)

 

Original Article:

news.vanderbilt.edu

by Liz Entman | Feb. 24,2016

After a long, dusty day excavating an archaeological site, nothing quite hits the spot like a frosty beverage. For Tiffiny Tung, associate professor of anthropology, all that hard work is about to pay off twice with the debut of a custom beer inspired by the fruits of her labor.

Wari Ale, a light, delicate beer whose rosy tint derives from bright pink molle berries and purple corn, will soon be available to connoisseurs over 21 at Chicago’s Field Museum and select Chicago retailers. The beer, crafted by Off Color Brewing, is based on a recipe treasured by an ancient Peruvian empire called the Wari and links to the museum’s permanent Ancient Americas exhibit.

“Archaeologists have known for a really long time that corn beer, or chicha, was socially important in the Andes,” said Tung. The Incas used it as a kind of political or social currency to build and solidify relationships with nearby lords.

But, while excavating a site called Beringa associated with the pre-Inca Wari culture, Tung found evidence that the Wari brewed their own version of chicha using the molle berry, the fruit of a local pepper plant.

Tung’s discovery was important, because 117 miles away at a site called Cerro Baúl, Ryan Williams, associate curator of anthropology at The Field Museum and a lead researcher of that excavation, had come upon the remains of a chicha de molle brewery, which he believes would have been able to produce 1,500–2,000 liters of beer in a single batch. Like Tung, Williams found evidence that, as corn beer did for the Incas, chicha de molle played a significant relationship-building role to the Wari.

“Tiffiny’s excavation at Beringa was key to understanding that Wari chicha de molle was a brewing phenomenon that went beyond our work at Cerro Baúl and was part of the larger Wari imperial project,” said Williams.

“It’s also really delicious,” said Tung.

The Field Museum first partnered with Off Color Brewing to produce a lager called Tooth and Claw brewed in honor of Sue, the museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Williams hopes the museum will continue to be able to offer more beers inspired by the museum’s exhibits, collections and research in the future.

Media Inquiries:
Liz Entman, (615) 322-NEWS
Liz.entman@vanderbilt.edu

 

 

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Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, painstakingly cleans and untangles the khipus at her house in Lima.Credit William Neuman/The New York Times

Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, painstakingly cleans and untangles the khipus at her house in Lima.Credit William Neuman/The New York Times

Khipus before it has been cleaned and untangled. Credit William Neuman/The New York Times.

Khipus before it has been cleaned and untangled. Credit William Neuman/The New York Times.

Original Article:

nytimes.com

By WILLIAM NEUMANJAN. 2, 2016

LIMA, Peru — In a dry canyon strewn with the ruins of a long-dead city, archaeologists have made a discovery they hope will help unravel one of the most tenacious mysteries of ancient Peru: how to read the knotted string records, known as khipus, kept by the Incas.

At the site called Incahuasi, about 100 miles south of Lima, excavators have found, for the first time, several khipus in the place where they were used — in this case, a storage house for agricultural products where they appear to have been used as accounting books to record the amount of peanuts, chili peppers, beans, corn and other items that went in and out.

In some cases the khipus — the first ones were found at the site in 2013 — were buried under the remnants of centuries-old produce, which was preserved thanks to the extremely dry desert conditions.

That was a blockbuster discovery because archaeologists had previously found khipus only in graves, where they were often buried with the scribes who created and used the devices. Many others are in the possession of collectors or museums, stripped of information relating to their provenance.

Khipus are made of a series of cotton or wool strings hanging from a main cord. Each string may have several knots, with the type and location of the knot conveying meaning. The color of the strands used to make the string and the way the strands are twisted together may also be part of the khipus’ system of storing and relaying information.

Researchers have long had a basic understanding of the numerical system incorporated in the khipus, where knots represent numbers and the relation between knots and strings can represent mathematical operations, like addition and subtraction.

But researchers have been unable to identify the meaning of any possible nonnumerical signifiers in khipus, and as a result they cannot read any nonmathematical words or phrases.

Now the Incahuasi researchers hope that by studying the khipus and comparing them with others in a large database, they may find that the khipus discovered with the peanuts contain a color, knot or other signifier for “peanut.” The same goes for those found with chili peppers, beans and corn.

“We can look at how the chili pepper khipu differs from the peanut khipu and from the corn khipu in terms of their color and other characteristics and we can build up a kind of sign vocabulary of how they were signifying this or that thing in their world,” said Gary Urton, a leading expert on khipus who is studying the new trove with Alejandro Chu, the archaeologist who led the excavation.

“It’s not the great Rosetta Stone but it’s quite an important new body of data to work with,” he said, adding, “It’s tremendously exciting.”

For now, the 29 khipus from Incahuasi, which are about 500 years old, are kept in an unassuming brick house in a residential neighborhood in Lima, along with a scattering of artifacts from other excavations, including two mummies (of a child and a dog), some bags of human bones, dozens of fragile textiles rolled up between layers of paper, and numerous pots meticulously reassembled from shards.

The house belongs to Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, who also keeps a menagerie of cats and dogs, including three hairless Peruvian dogs of the kind once raised by the Incas for food.

It is Ms. Landa who takes the Incahuasi khipus, some of which were found neatly rolled up and others in snarled jumbles, and painstakingly cleans and untangles them and prepares them for researchers to decipher.

“You have a very special relationship with the material,” Ms. Landa, 59, said. “I talk to them. I say, ‘Excuse me for disturbing your rest but you’re helping us to understand your ancestors.’ ”

Incahuasi, which means “house of the Inca emperor,” was a city used in the late 15th and early 16th centuries as the base of operations for the Inca invasion of Peru’s southern coast, after which it became a thriving administrative center, according to Mr. Chu, the archaeologist. It sat in the arid hills above the green valley of the Cañete River.

“There was probably lots of movement, with llama caravans bringing in farm produce,” he said.

The storehouse where the khipus were found was probably used to keep food needed to maintain the large number of troops deployed in the invasion.

The Incas, who were highly organized and governed a vast area, would have used khipus to keep track of provisions, and copies of the string records were probably sent to an administrative center, such as Cusco, the Inca capital, where they could be read, checked and perhaps filed. The Incahuasi excavation has even turned up what are essentially duplicate sets of khipus tied together, which the researchers believe could have been made when the same products were counted twice — perhaps to guarantee accurate bookkeeping.

One khipu found at the site had its knots untied, suggesting that the information stored there had been “erased” by the accountants so that the khipu could be reused, Ms. Landa said.

The khipus found at Incahuasi appear to be all about counting beans, literally. But colonial-era documents suggest that khipus had many uses in both the pre-Hispanic and colonial period that went beyond accounting, including to keep calendrical information and to tell historical narratives.

Colonial records show that in some cases, such as land disputes, indigenous litigants would bring khipus to court and use them to explain or justify claims of land ownership, Mr. Chu said. He said that scribes would read the khipus and a court clerk would enter the information into the trial record.

Mr. Urton has created a database of all known khipus, about 870 of them, with detailed information on two-thirds of them, recording their configurations, colors, numerical values and other information.

Because the Incahuasi khipus appear to be relatively simple inventories of agricultural products, it may be easier to decipher them than the more complex khipus that record historical information, Mr. Chu said.

And a breakthrough in deciphering the Incahuasi khipus could be a first step in reading more complex versions.

“If we can find the connection between the khipu and the product that it was found with we can contribute to the deciphering of the khipus,” Mr. Chu said.

Mr. Urton said that the difference between the accounting khipus at Incahuasi and more elaborate khipus, “is the difference between, let’s say, your tax form and a novel.” But they may also have key similarities: “They both use the same language, they both use the same numbers when they use numbers, and it’s in the same writing system.”

The excavations at Incahuasi have stopped because of a lack of financing. Much of the vast storeroom complex has yet to be excavated, and Mr. Chu hopes there could be more khipus there.

“It was very exciting to find them,” Mr. Chu said. “We started to find the storerooms and we didn’t think we would find any khipus. Then we started to clear away the dirt and we saw the knots.”

 

 

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20130306-110756.jpg

Topic: diet

Human sacrifices are the most infamous feature of ancient South American societies, but little was actually known about the victims? New research published in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology explores archaeological evidence from Peru, dating to the Late Horizon era between 1450 and 1532 A.D., to tell us more about the individuals who met their fate.

Examining the final years

Evidence from bone collagen to hair keratin was used to examine where the sacrificial victims lived in the decade prior to their death, as well as their diets in the months leading up to the fatal ritual.

This study investigated two key variables—residential and subsistence—among sacrificial victims dating to the Late Horizon (A.D. 1450–1532) in the Huaca de los Sacrificios at the Chotuna-Chornancap Archaeological Complex in north coastal Peru.

The studied individuals date to the period of Inca imperial rule over the Lambayeque Valley Complex which included a radical social change to the culture and the installation of direct Inca political presence in some areas of the valley.

The investigators decided to test a hypothesis that the sacrificial victims were brought from outside the locality and would have eaten a diet that corresponded to their status as sacrificial offerings in the final months of life.

To do this, they used 33 sets of human remains from Huaca de los Sacrificios, where rib samples could be collected from 32 individuals. The central aim of the study was to examine only the last decade of the individuals life through to the final months. Given this, and the fact that obtaining samples for dentine collagen isotopic analysis is particularly intrusive, the team opted not to include teeth in this study and took all samples from ribs.

Typical Inca demographic

The demographic of the victims at Huaca de Los Sacrificios mirrored that of Inca rituals within the empire’s heartland; mainly juveniles and females. Thirty of the 33 bodies were female and the majority hadn’t reached 15-years-old with some of the child mummies being no older than nine.

Haagen Klaus, anthropologist at Utah Valley University said at the time of discovery that the “majority of them were sacrificed using a very sharp bladed instrument, probably a copper or bronze tumi knife. And for the majority there are several combinations, a complex set of variations on cutting of the throat.”

Human sacrifice on the north coast of Peru can be both conservative and highly variable. The focus of ritual killing in this region for two thousand years appears to have been linked to blood sacrifice involving the slitting of the supplicant’s throat followed by a blow to the head.

A Surprising result

The results did not however match the expectations, as it revealed that in contrast to contemporaneous coastal and highland contexts rather than being individuals brought in from outside the region, the victims were local to the area, and consumed diets consistent with social status with no visible sign of dietary change in the final months. This is very different from other sacrificial victims (Inca Sacrifice Victims ‘Fattened Up’ Before Death. – National Geographic).

These findings suggest a distinct pattern of human sacrifice in the Late Horizon and underscore the regional and temporal variation in sacrificial practices in the central Andes. What this means is that every single site showing signs of the behaviour requires unique study to understand the context of sacrifice.

Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology
More Information

Bethany L. Turner, Haagen D. Klaus, Sarah V. Livengood, Leslie E. Brown, Fausto Saldaña, Carlos Wester, The variable roads to sacrifice: Isotopic investigations of human remains from Chotuna-Huaca de los Sacrificios, Lambayeque, Peru” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22238
Human Sacrifice Victims at Chotuna-Chornancap: Multidimensional Reconstruction of Ritual Violence in the Late Pre-Hispanic Lambayeque Valley A paper by Haagen Klaus
Ambrose SH, Norr L. 1993. Experimental evidence for the relationship of the carbon isotope ratios of whole diet and dietary protein to those of bone collagen and carbonate. In: Lambert JB, Grupe G, editors. Prehistoric human bone: archaeology at the molecular level. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p 1–37.
Donnan CB. 2012. Chotuna and Chornancap: excavating an ancient Peruvian legend. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.

Original article:

past horizons
March 4, 2013

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