Posts Tagged ‘South America’


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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Topic: Inca Foods

By Manuel Villacorta is a nationally recognized, award-winning registered  dietitian

Growing up in Peru, we ate many foods that you don?t see as often in the  United States. Quinoa, for instance, was everywhere?we used it to feed both  people and chickens! In recent years many of the foods I remember from a Latin  American diet have become available in the US, and it turns out they have highly  beneficial nutritional profiles. That they do should come as no surprise?many of  these are the foods of the Incas, on which those great people built a vast  empire. Today I want to introduce you to the five food wonders of the Incan  world, and suggest you try them out for yourself.

The Incan empire is less familiar perhaps than the Romans, but it shouldn?t  be; by the 16th century its borders extended from Machu Picchu in Peru north to  Ecuador and south along the Andes through modern-day Chile and Argentina. The  Incas had to manage a huge territory, including communicating across vast  distances, so it?s no wonder they were known for their fighting skills, their  endurance, and their strength. Clearly, they benefited from some good nutrition!  In fact, with an empire whose beginning pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in  the Americas, the Incas were fueled by a diet made up of nutritionally dense,  New World foods. Here are five of them.

1. Quinoa: The Incas called this staple of their diet Chehisaya mama,  meaning ?mother of all grains,? and yet quinoa is not actually a grain?it?s a  seed. And what a seed it is: one cup of quinoa has 8 grams of protein, is high  in calcium, protein, and iron, and is a good source of Vitamin C as well as  several B-Vitamins. It is high on the lycine/thiamine system, so in combination  with other grains it creates complete proteins. Best of all, it?s incredibly  easy to make, and versatile to eat.  Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes with  two cups of liquid to a cup of quinoa. (Check out my YouTube demonstration on  how to cook quinoa.) Use it as a rice substitute in stir fries, pair it with  fish and vegetables to make a complete entr�e, or put it in a salad or under a  soup as a carbohydrate source. It?s even a breakfast food?boil it with milk, add  walnuts and blueberries, and it?s a delicious alternative to oatmeal.

2. Kiwicha: You may already know this seed by its more common  North American name, amaranth. It?s often called ?mini-quinoa,? but kiwicha is a  much smaller seed. It is very high in protein and has a more complete profile of  amino acids than most other grains, and it is rich in iron, manganese,  magnesium, phosphoros, and copper?minerals essential to healthy physical  functioning. Adding kiwicha to your diet can help decrease plasma cholesterol,  stimulate your immune system, and potentially even inhibit tumors. It also  improves hypertension and reduces blood glucose. In short, it can help support  your body?s essential systems. Kiwicha is like quinoa in one other respect?how  it?s cooked. Prepare just as you would quinoa or rice, and eat it in a  pilaf-like salad. Delicious!

3. Pichuberry: This small, smooth fruit is known in Peru as ?Inca berry,? but it was so  successfully spread by the Spanish after their conquest of the Americas that in  Africa it?s known as the Africa berry, and in Australia it?s called a Cape  gooseberry. Its health benefits are manifest: the pichuberry contains powerful  antioxidants and twenty times the Vitamin-C of an orange; it boosts immunity and  vitality, and there is even promising research suggesting it prevents cellular  aging and the onset of cancer. In Peru it is known as the anti-diabetic fruit  because it reduces blood sugar by stimulating the production of insulin. And its  nutrient profile (Provitamin A, B-Complex vitamins, thiamine, nyacine,  phosphoros) is associated with liver fortification, lung strength, fertility,  and food absorption. It makes a great salad when paired with quinoa, tastes  incredible with dark chocolate, and is a delicious replacement for blueberries  on your morning oatmeal.


4. Sacha Inchi: These seeds of the Inchi plant are often called  Inca-peanuts, and they are one of the best plant sources for the Omega family of  fatty acids. With 48% Omega-3, 36% Omega-6, and rich supplies of Iodine, Vitamin  A, and Vitamin E, the Inca-peanut has major health benefits in terms of  restoring your lipid balance, encouraging the production of HDL (high-density  lipoprotein, responsible for transporting lipids through your bloodstream), and  fighting conditions like heart disease and diabetes. You can certainly eat Sacha  Inchi like you would other nuts, but you might prefer to buy the oil and use it  to dress salads in place of olive oil (with its low burning-point, it is  somewhat tricky to use as a cooking oil).

5. Purple Potatoes: Potatoes are a remarkably diverse and nutritious  New World food?in Peru there are over 3,000 kinds! The one that was particularly  eaten by the Incas was the purple potato, which has started to appear in North  American supermarkets. The anthocyanins in the potatoes give them their  distinctive purple/blue color; these natural chemicals are flaminoids?substances  with powerful anti-cancer and heart protective effects. Flaminoids also  stimulate the immune system and protect against age-related memory loss. These  potatoes are delicious, with a distinctive nutty, earthy, slightly bitter  flavor. I prefer to roast them:  I use a pump mister filled with olive or  peanut oil?not an artificial cooking spray?to lightly spritz the quartered  potatoes, which I then spread in a roasting pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and a  little garlic powder or Italian seasonings, and roast for about 15 minutes at  400 degrees. Once the potatoes are cooked they are a great carb source for a  variety of meals; I make a batch on Sunday, and use them through the week  scrambled with eggs for breakfast, in a salad for lunch, or reheated with  chicken or fish for dinner.

All of these delicious foods have begun making an appearance in North  American supermarkets, and are still in the fully natural, nutritious state they  were in when they sustained the Incas through the building of a great empire.  Try them out. Your health and your taste buds will thank you.

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Topic Ancient turkeys

Turkey Bones


Earliest use of Mexican turkeys by ancient Maya.


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Topic: Amazon


New study results suggest a lop-sided dispersal of ancient population groups in the Amazon Basin before Columbus.

The spread of indigenous pre-Columbian settlements in the Amazon Basin was not an even one, according to an analysis of the results of a recent study conducted by researchers from four research institutions.

The researchers, from the Florida Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution, Wake Forest University and the University of Florida, led by Florida Tech’s Crystal McMichael and Mark Bush, were attempting to determine the impact of human population in Amazonia before the Europeans arrived. Their hypothesis: If the Pre-Columbian Amazon was a landscape highly altered by humans, then most of the Amazon’s current biodiversity could be the result of human impact. Because the Amazon Basin represents one of the planet’s most significant areas of biodiversity, the question of how Amazonia was modified by humans in the past contributes to our understanding of rainforest ecology and informs us in our conservation efforts.

The team collected 247 soil cores from 55 locations in the central and western Amazon, sites like river banks and locations that archeological evidence had indicated were occupied by people. They also collected cores farther from the rivers, where historical and archaeological data were lacking. By using markers set in the cores, they were able to track the chronology of fire, vegetation and human alterations in the soil. No samples were collected form the eastern Amazon, as it has already been thoroughly studied.

Their finds suggested that the early inhabitants of the central and western Amazon were concentrated near rivers and lakes, living in small groups, with some larger populations along some rivers. Even in the larger settlements, there was no evidence of high population and large-scale agriculture. Their impact on the rainforest was, for the most part, limited to the river banks, with little impact on the outlying forests. These results overturn the long-held notion that all of Amazonia was a highly populated area with large-scale agriculture before the Europeans arrived. At least in the central and western portions of the Amazon, people actually lived in smaller, mobile groups.

Said Bush: “There is strong evidence of large settlements in eastern Amazonia, but our data point to different cultural adaptations in the central and western Amazon, which left vast areas with very little human imprint.” Adds McMichael: “The amazing biodiversity of the Amazon is not a byproduct of past human disturbance…..We also can’t assume that these forests will be resilient to disturbance, because many have never been disturbed, or have only been lightly disturbed in the past. Certainly there is no parallel in western Amazonia for the scale of modern disturbance that accompanies industrial agriculture, road construction, and the synergies of those disturbances with climate change.”

The detailed research report appears in the 15 June 2012 issue of Science. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

Original Article:


Popular Archaeology.

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Topic:  Trapped in Amber

fossilized insect remains preserved in amber for over 23 million years,

Researchers in Peru said Tuesday they have discovered the remains of ancient insects and sunflower seeds trapped inside amber dating from the Miocene epoch, some 23 million years ago.

The rare find was made in the remote mountainous jungle region near Peru’s northern border with Ecuador, paleontologist Klaus Honninger told AFP.

“These new discoveries are very important, because the insects and sunflower seeds confirm the type of climate that existed during the Miocene period,” Honninger said in a telephone interview from the northern city of Chiclayo.

The paleontologists discovered “hundreds of pieces of amber up to 12 centimeters (five inches) large containing several types of insects,” Honninger said.

The insects trapped in the amber — fossilized tree resin — are extremely well preserved and include ancient beetles, barklice, flies and spiders.

Honninger, director of the Chiclayo-based Meyer-Honninger Paleontology Museum, said that the experts discovered “an unknown species of arachnid” with a head like a dog and legs four times longer than the body.

The discovery was made in April in the Santiago River area of northern Peru.

Extreme climate change from the Miocene epoch (23 to five million years ago) was likely the reason the insects became extinct, Honninger said.

The same team of researchers announced in January it had discovered a fossilized squid from the Cretaceous era (145 to 65 million years ago) some 3,700 meters (12,100 feet) above sea level in the Maranon River Valley, also in far northern Peru.

Original Article:


August 2011

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Topic : Ancient Peruvian agriculture practices


The coastal desert of Peru. (Wikimedia Commons)

What do the characters in The Grapes of Wrath, Icelandic shepherds in the Middle Ages and ancient Peruvians have in common? They all suffered from the effects of intensive agriculture on sensitive environments.

Throughout human history unsustainable agricultural practices have turned fragile ecosystems into wastelands and left people starving. During the Dust Bowl, American farmers learned the consequences of removing the deep rooted grasses from the Great Plains when the soil blew away in tremendous dust storms. Icelandic shepherds learned that the sheep rearing practices their ancestors used on the European mainland destroyed the thin soils of their island and left them with starving herds and little to eat.

The ancient inhabitants of what is now Peru also learned the unhappy consequences of farming in a delicate ecosystem. The Ica Valley, near the coast of southern Peru and the famous Nazca lines, is now a barren desert, but was once a fertile floodplain, anchored by the roots of the huarango tree.

People were able to raise a variety of crops there for several centuries. But intensive agriculture in pre-conquest times led to ecosystem collapse. The history of the land was recently reconstructed by bioarcheologist David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge by looking at plant remains left in ancient garbage heaps.

Beresford-Jones and a team of archeologists studied plant remains associated with settlement sites spanning roughly 750 B.C. to 1000 A.D. They observed the change as the valley inhabitants went from eating mostly gathered foods, to a period of intense agriculture, then back again to surviving on what they could eke out of nature’s diminished bounty.

“The farmers inadvertently crossed an ecological threshold and the changes became irreversible,” says Dr. David Beresford-Jones of the University of Cambridge.

Farming the Ica Valley was possible because of the huarango tree woodland, which literally held the floodplain together. The roots of the tree physically anchored the soils and protected the ground from erosion. The trees also maintained fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air and keeping moisture in the soil.

But as more land was cleared for crop production, so much of the woodland was cleared that the huarango’s benefits were lost. The land was then exposed to floods from El Niño events and strong winds parched the land when it wasn’t flooded.
Clearing the land of trees in order to grow crops had inadvertently and ironically made it impossible to grow crops.

Earlier residents of the valley had survived largely on land snails, along with sea urchins and mussels gathered from the Pacific coast, an eight-hour walk to the west. The researchers found no evidence of domesticated crops in the refuse heaps, called middens, left by these early inhabitants.

Things started to change around 100 B.C. Remains from crops, including pumpkins, maize, and manioc tubers, began appearing in the garbage heaps. Within a few hundred years there was more intensive agriculture. People added beans, peanuts, and chili peppers to their menus.

The feast didn’t last long though. After about 500 years of agriculture, the domesticated crops disappeared. People once again survived on only snails and seafood with some wild plants.

In less than two thousand years, the people went full circle and ended up eating what their ancestors had, but without the huarango forests. To this day, the land is barren, with only the ghostly outlines of irrigation canals to suggest that the land once supported an agrarian society.

Further evidence of the change is found in the disappearance of the use of a blue dye from the indigofera shrub. The shrub grows only in the shelter of huarango trees along waterways. The peoples of the Ica Valley frequently sported clothes dyed a rich blue between 100 and 400 A.D. But as agriculture increased, the use of the dye decreased, suggesting the indigofera’s habitat was also disappearing. Seeds from the shrub also became rare in the archeological record.

The indigofera eventually disappeared from the lower Ica Valley, but other plants became more common. Grasses that thrive in open areas became more common as the trees were cut down. Weeds that sprout in soil disturbed by agriculture also became more common.

The study of land use in the Ica Valley was recently published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.

The peoples of the Ica Valley are not the only Peruvians to  suffer from the effects of deforestation. The hills around Lima, Peru were once
covered in huarango trees as well. The trees captured the fog from the ocean and  fed local aquifers. But after the Spanish conquest, the trees were cut and the  hills went dry.


Coast of Peru



Original article:



IMAGE 1: The coastal desert of Peru. (Wikimedia Commons)

IMAGE 2: Photo STS109-730-80
from the STS-109 crew on March 9, 2002, showing layers of coastal Peruvian fog
and stratus being progressively scoured away by brisk south to southeast winds.
Remnants of the cloud deck banked against the larger, obstructing headlands like
Peninsula Paracas and Isla Sangayan, giving the prominent “white comma” effect.
Southerlies also produced ripples of internal gravity waves in the clouds
offshore where warm, dry air aloft interacts with a thinning layer of cool,
moist air near the sea surface on the outer edge of the remaining cloud bank.
South of Peninsula Baracas, the small headlands channeled the clouds into
streaks—local horizontal vortices caused by the headlands provided enough lift
to give points of origin of the clouds in some bays. Besides the shelter of the
peninsula, the Bahia de Pisco appears to be cloud-free due to a dry, offshore
flow down the valley of the Rio Ica. Caption provided by NASA Earth
; image provided by the Earth
Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory
at Johnson Space Center.

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Topic Inca agriculture:

A llama grazes near the Machu Picchu site in the Andes. Research shows these animals' dropping were critical for the Inca.

  • The cultivation of critical maize crops and the use of organic fertilizer
    2,700 years ago laid the foundation for the Inca to settle and flourish many
    centuries later.
  • Research shows that llama droppings helped make these crops possible at the
  • high altitudes of the Andes.

Lots of llama droppings helped the ancient Inca build the largest empire ever
to exist in the Americas, according to a new study.

Human populations took off and developed into complex societies in the Andes
by switching from hunter-gathering to agriculture centered on maize, according
to the research published in the June issue of the journal Antiquity.
llama poop helped fertilize that crucial crop.

“This leap occurred 2,700 years ago and was made possible by a huge
availability of animal excrement. Organic fertilizers enabled corn to be
cultivated at very high altitudes, allowing the Inca to settle and flourish,”
Alex Chepstow-Lusty, a palaeoecologist from the French Institute for Andean
Studies in Lima, Peru, told Discovery News.

The Inca ruled the largest empire on Earth — stretching from the present-day
southern border of Colombia to central Chile — by the time their last emperor,
Atahualpa, was executed by Spanish conquistadors in 1533.

Because the Inca language has no written form — it has long been considered
the only major Bronze Age civilization without a written language — and due to
the destruction of their heritage by the Spanish, the details of their meteoric
rise have remained a mystery.

Chepstow-Lusty found reliable witnesses to reconstruct the “extraordinary
plant-breeding event” which might be at the basis of the Inca Empire. These were
pollen and mites buried in layers of mud on the floor of Lake Marcacocha in the
Cuzco region of the Peruvian Andes, where Machu Picchu sits.

Similar to the rings in the trunk of a tree, each layer of sediment
represents a fixed period of time. Taking a 6.3-meter (20.6 foot)-long sediment
core from the lake bottom, Chepstow-Lusty investigated and radiocarbon-dated
organic material from six layers, basically analyzing a 4,200-year-old sediment

The researcher found that maize pollen appears for the first time in the lake
muds around 700 B.C., showing that the cereal could be cultivated at high
altitudes of at least 3,350 meters (10,990 feet) above sea level.

Until then, Andean people were eating potatoes and quinoa, a grain-like plant
similar to spinach which is very protein-rich.

According to Graham Thiele, an Andean agriculture specialist at the
International Potato Center in Lima, maize indeed made a difference. More
energy-dense than potato, it could be stored for much longer and was easier to

“This really matters where there are no flat roads and wheeled vehicles and
everything has to be carried on the back of a man or llama,” Thiele told
Discovery News.

“In addition, maize is more suitable for accumulation in elite controlled
stores, and would have supported rent extraction by the emergent Wari and Inca
elites. So maize trumps potato on transportability, storage and suitability for
paying tribute,” he said.

The lake sediment core also revealed that the highest abundance of oribatid
mites, which eat animal dung, corresponded with the first appearance of

This would show that, although corn was introduced to South America about
5,000 years ago, it reached the inhospitable Andes only with the help of llama
herds. Located next to an ancient trade route between the jungle and the
mountains, Marcaccocha was an ideal stop for llamas transporting goods.

“They used the pasture next to lake where they defecated communally. This was
food for the mites, but also provided fertilizer which was easily collected and
necessary for the maize to grow,” Chepstow-Lusty said.

A brief
period of warming
between two major droughts also helped in growing maize at
high altitudes.

“The Marcacocha record shows that a series of droughts associated with
temperature increases, corresponding with major societal changes, occurred
approximately every 500 years after 700 B.C.,” Chepstow-Lusty said.

From 1100 A.D., the warming was sustained for at least five centuries,
allowing the growth of the biggest Empire in the western hemisphere and lasting
beyond the arrival of the Spanish in 1532 A.D.


Original Article:


Rossella Lorenzi
Mon May 23, 2011

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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 Four tusked Elephants found with Clovis points:

The discovery took place in early January 2011 in El Fin del Mundo, Sonora by researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), during the third field season at the site identified as a hunting and quartering area during the Pleistocene. Photo: INAH.


Gomphotheres, 4 tusked prehistoric Elephants ancestors

MEXICO CITY.- Mexican Archaeologists discovered 3 Clovis projectile heads associated to remains of gomphotheres with an age of at least 12,000 years, in the northern region of the Mexican state of Sonora. The finding is relevant because these are the first evidences in North America of this extinct animal linked to the human species.

The finding opens the possibility of the coexistence of humankind with gomphotheres, animals similar to mammoths, but smaller, in this region of America, which contrasts with theories that declare that this species disappeared 30,000 years ago in this region of America and did not coexist with humans.

The discovery took place in early January 2011 in El Fin del Mundo, Sonora by researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), during the third field season at the site identified as a hunting and quartering area during the Pleistocene.

This finding completes a scene in which archaeologists visualized how Clovis groups hunted this elephant ancestor. “This is an unprecedented finding in Mexico since it is the first time that projectile heads are found associated to a bone bed of this kind of proboscides.

“There is no other Clovis archaeological site where gomphotheres have been found, not even in the United States, where most important Clovis Culture findings have been registered, and these vestiges are dated between 10,600 and 11,600 years” informed archaeologist Guadalupe Sanchez, director of the Fin del Mundo Research Project.

“The discovery took place in the same archaeological context where in 2008 gomphothere bones and different lithic tools were found on the surface, among them, a quartz crystal Clovis head”.

Clovis people are also known as hunters of mammoths, one of 3 proboscide species that lived in America, being the other 2 the mastodon and the gomphothere. The last was the smallest and the earliest to appear in the Americas.

Gomphotheres have only been found associated to humans in South America, and the southernmost Clovis heads were found in Costa Rica; human evidence associated with proboscides was limited mastodons and mammoths, until now.

The INAH archaeologist Natalia Martinez, head of the field research, explained that Clovis projectile heads were discovered in the point named Localidad 1, the remainder of a swamp with deposits of the Pleistocene and Holocene eras, and were freed by scraping carefully a hard soil block.

The lithic artifacts manufactured by Clovis people to hunt great animals, were located a few centimeters under the gomphothere discovered in previous field seasons part of the research project conducted by the INAH, the University of Arizona and the National Geographic Society.

original article:



PostScript: Mead

I’m sitting at my dining room table listing to the constant bubbling of the mead I posted on the other day. A most satisfying sound indeed! Stay tuned, more on mead history soon…

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Topic Ancient grain-modern times

I was going to  post somthing else today but I found this article on yahoo and could’t resist


By CARLOS VALDEZ and FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Carlos Valdez And Frank Bajak, Associated Press Tue Jan 4, 12:55 pm ET

CARACOLLO, Bolivia – It’s as inhospitable as climates come for crop cultivation, the dry and rocky soils of Bolivia’s semiarid altiplain. Miguel Choque can see his breath as surveys his fields of quinoa, the Andean “supergrain.”

In late March or April, the flowering plants will paint the rugged landscape yellow, green and red. Their diminutive seed, which powered Inca armies only to be elbowed aside by the wheat preferred by colonizing Spaniards, is unmatched in nutritional value.

Quinoa’s rising popularity among First World foodies — the wholesale price has jumped sevenfold since 2000 as global demand climbed — has been a boon to the poor farmers here in the semiarid highlands where most of it grows.

President Evo Morales’ government has deemed quinoa a “strategic” foodstuff, essential to this poverty-afflicted nation’s food security. It is promoting the grain and has included quinoa in a subsidized food parcel for pregnant women.

Yet the higher prices quinoa is fetching have had an unanticipated impact where the grain is grown. Some local children are showing signs of malnutrition because their parents have substituted rice and noodles for quinoa in the family diet, said Walter Severo, president of a quinoa producer’s group in southwest Bolivia.

“Only 10 percent of it stays in Bolivia. The other 90 percent gets exported,” says Rural Development Minister Nemecia Achacollo.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) provides 10 essential amino acids, is loaded with minerals and has a high protein content — between 14 and 18 percent. The FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization) says it is so nutritious it can be substituted for mother’s milk.

“This food is about the most perfect you can find for human diets,” said Duane Johnson, a 61-year-old former Colorado State agronomist who helped introduce it to the United States three decades ago.

Quinoa isn’t a cereal. It’s a seed that is eaten like a grain, but is gluten-free and more easily digestible than corn, wheat, rye, millet and sorghum. And it can be substituted for rice in just about anything — from soup to salad to pudding to bread.

“I’ve got high-performance athletes that swear by it,” said David Schnorr, president of Quinoa Corp., the largest U.S. importer. It’s also being embraced by the increasing number of Americans with food allergies or celiac disease, an immunological rejection of gluten, a wheat protein. NASA researchers consider it ideal for inclusion in possible future long-term space missions when crops would need to be grown on spacecraft.

Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean highlands since 3,000 B.C., and grows natively from Chile north to Colombia, mostly in Peru and Bolivia. The varieties of this region of southwestern Bolivia — at 3,700 meters (over 12,000 feet) — are resistant to the freezes and droughts that periodically afflict it.

The crop — “chisiya mama” or mother grain in the native Quechua language — also grows in the San Luis Valley of Colorado at about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) as well as in a growing number of countries including China and Mongolia, said Johnson.

“It’s very specific in the environments where it will grow,” he said. “It requires very cool days and even cooler evenings.”

He says Peru and Bolivia account for as much as 97 percent of global production.

And demand is booming.

“We’ve easily doubled our business in the last couple of years during the worst economic recession we’ve had in a long time,” said Schnoor.

In 2000, Bolivia exported 1,439 metric tons valued at $1.8 million. In 2009, exports totaled 14,500 tons worth more than $25 million, principally to the U.S., Japan and Europe. The goal for this harvest is 30,000 tons, said Bolivia’s deputy minister of rural development, Victor Hugo Vasquez.

Schnoor said prices soared threefold in early 2008. A decade ago, a 12-ounce box of his quinoa, marketed under the Ancient Harvest brand, retailed for 99 cents in the United States. Now it costs about $4.50. It’s also available in bulk at natural food markets — and even Costco warehouse stores now carry it.

The indigenous Bolivians who cultivate quinoa are among Bolivia’s poorest and many lived until the late 20th century by barter. It was the discovery of quinoa by the health conscious in wealthier countries that introduced these people to the life of the market, says Brigido Martinez, president of the National Association of Quinoa producers, ANAPQUI.

Martinez traces the boom in quinoa’s popularity to a visit by the king and queen of Spain in 1987, when the royals sampled it, and the news media and the world took note. Food exporters in the coastal Peruvian capital of Lima, where it had been considered “poor people’s food” by the European-descended elite, took note and began buying it up.

It’s not by chance that most of the world’s quinoa comes from Bolivia.

In the 1990s, Johnson and fellow Colorado State University crop scientist Sarah Ward patented a high-yielding hybrid with the intention of spurring large-scale cultivation in the U.S. But they were challenged by ANAPQUI in an international court and abandoned the effort.

There are those in Bolivia who believe this scrappy grain could lift its altiplain out of poverty just as soy has become the economic motor of the country’s wealthier eastern lowlands. After all, quinoa fetches up to five times the price of soy beans in the U.S. and European markets.

Martinez doesn’t believe that can or will happen. For one, quinoa growers farm on a smaller scale (the country’s soy growers are mostly agribusinessmen with huge plantations).

But for a government that proudly declares itself “decolonizing” Bolivia in favor of its long downtrodden indigenous majority, the promotion of quinoa is a linchpin of an agricultural policy that favors the small holder over agribusiness.

Officials are working on details of a plan to boost quinoa production, including credits for farmers that never before had access to financing. Many producers are suspicious, however, that the government could turn into a competitor.

“Its support is fine, but we’d like it to help with irrigation and research to improve the quality of the seed and soil performance,” said Martinez.

Meanwhile, some quinoa farmers have put their increased income to work raising more llamas and alpacas, whose waste is used as fertilizer and which also produce wool. And while most harvesting is still done manually, some have abandoned the ox-pulled plow for tractors.

Some farmers believe current cultivation methods inadequate.

“The soils are tired and need nutrition. Production is dropping,” said Francisco Quisbert, an indigenous leader in the region where Quinoa Real is grown.

But other quinoa boosters caution that traditional, organic farming methods must be maintained to preserve the purity of the crop.

Consumers in the developed world don’t want quinoa grown with chemical fertilizers or pest controllers, said Schnorr.

However it plays out, Martinez, the producer’s association president, is not complaining.

“Quinoa isn’t lifting us out of poverty,” he says. “But we are living better.”

Original article:

By CARLOS VALDEZ and FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Carlos Valdez And Frank Bajak, Associated Press Tue Jan 4, 12:55 pm ET


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