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On this day ten years ago…
via Dirty Teeth Reveal Ancient Peruvians Ate Well

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Two examples of potato-shaped ceramics from the Moche culture of Peru. L: Anthropomorphic potato vessel from 400 AD in the Larco Museum, Peru. R: Potato shaped vessel from the Larco Museum, Peru.L: LARCO MUSEUM / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / CC BY SA 3.0. R: PATTYCH / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / CC BY SA 3.0

original Article:

Kristina Killgrove

Forbes.com

We may think of potatoes as the most basic of foods, given their modern ubiquity and low cost, but in the Moche culture in ancient Peru, archaeologists had assumed they were highly charged symbols of the elite because they were found only in artifacts. New research, however, has shown that our understanding of New World potato consumption is biased by the fact the starchy vegetable is nearly always consumed in its entirety.

In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers Guy Duke of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Victor Vásquez-Sanchez and Teresa Rosales-Tham of Arqueobios in Peru outline their method of starch grain analysis from ceramic and stone artifacts to investigate the use of potatoes in the Moche diet.

Their archaeological investigation focused on the site of Wasi Huachuma, located in the lower Jequetepeque valley of Peru, dating to 600-850 AD or the later years of the Moche culture. This site featured a platform mound, associated out buildings, burials, and a large residential area. The Moche civilization is well known for massive ritual structures like the pyramidal Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, as well as for their extensively varied ceramic tradition that includes depictions of sex acts. Some Moche religious practices even involved ritual human sacrifice.

Given the rich history of impressive material culture, less research has been focused over the last century of archaeological investigation of the Moche into domestic contexts, including what food people were eating. But a recent turn in anthropological archaeology away from elite-only contexts to the remains of common people has greatly enriched the prehistory of cultures around the world.

 

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Dr. Yoshi Maezumi,

 

Original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER—Ancient communities transformed the Amazon thousands of years ago, farming in a way which has had a lasting impact on the rainforest, a major new study* shows.

Farmers had a more profound effect on the supposedly “untouched” rainforest than previously thought, introducing crops to new areas, boosting the number of edible tree species and using fire to improve the nutrient content of soil, experts have found.

The study is the first detailed history of long-term human land use and fire management in this region conducted by archaeologists, paleoecologists, botanists and ecologists. It shows how early Amazon farmers used the land intensively and expanded the types of crops grown, without continuously clearing new areas of the forest for farming when soil nutrients became depleted.

The research team examined charcoal, pollen and plant remains from soil in archaeological sites and sediments from a nearby lake to trace the history of vegetation and fire in eastern Brazil. This provided evidence that maize, sweet potato, manioc and squash were farmed as early as 4,500 years ago in this part of the Amazon. Farmers increased the amount of food they grew by improving the nutrient content of the soil through burning and the addition of manure and food waste. Fish and turtles from rivers were also a key part of the diets at the time.

The findings explain why forests around current archaeological sites in the Amazon have a higher concentration of edible plants.

Dr Yoshi Maezumi, from the University of Exeter, who led the study, said: “People thousands of years ago developed a nutrient rich soil called Amazonian Dark Earths (ADEs). They farmed in a way which involved continuous enrichment and reusing of the soil, rather than expanding the amount of land they clear cut for farming. This was a much more sustainable way of farming.”

The development of ADEs allowed the expansion of maize and other crops, usually only grown near nutrient rich lake and river shores, to be farmed in other areas that generally have very poor soils. This increased the amount of food available for the growing Amazon population at the time.

Dr Maezumi said: “Ancient communities likely did clear some understory trees and weeds for farming, but they maintained a closed canopy forest, enriched in edible plants which could bring them food. This is a very different use of the land to that of today, where large areas of land in the Amazon is cleared and planted for industrial scale grain, soya bean farming and cattle grazing. We hope modern conservationists can learn lessons from indigenous land use in the Amazon to inform management decisions about how to safeguard modern forests.”

Professor Jose Iriarte, from the University of Exeter, said: “The work of early farmers in the Amazon has left an enduring legacy. The way indigenous communities managed the land thousands of years ago still shapes modern forest ecosystems. This is important to remember as modern deforestation and agricultural plantations expand across the Amazon Basin, coupled with the intensification of drought severity driven by warming global temperatures.”

*The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon is published in the journal Nature Plants.

 

 

 

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field of Quinoa

 

Original Article

eurelalert.org

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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 Humans living in Argentina 14,000 years ago were hunting giant armadillos. This one looks especially grumpy.

Humans living in Argentina 14,000 years ago were hunting giant armadillos. This one looks especially grumpy.

 

Original Article:

By ANNALEE NEWITZ

arstechnica.com

 

A glimpse of the last people on Earth to colonize a continent without humans.

 

For more than a decade, evidence has been piling up that humans colonized the Americas thousands of years before the Clovis people. The Clovis, who are the early ancestors of today’s Native Americans, left abundant evidence of their lives behind in the form of tools and graves. But the mysterious pre-Clovis humans, who likely arrived 17,000 to 15,000 years ago, have left only a few dozen sources of evidence for their existence across the Americas, mostly at campsites where they processed animals during hunting trips. Now a fresh examination of one such campsite, a 14,000-year-old hunter’s rest stop outside the city of Tres Arroyos in Argentina, has given us a new understanding of how the pre-Clovis people might have lived.

Archaeologists are still uncertain how the pre-Clovis people arrived in the Americas. They came after the end of the ice age but at a time when glaciers and an icy, barren environment would still have blocked easy entrance into the Americas via Northern Canada. So it’s extremely unlikely that they marched over a land bridge from Siberia and into the Americas through the middle of the continent—instead, they would have come from Asia via a coastal route, frequently using boats for transport. That would explain why many pre-Clovis sites are on the coast, on islands, or on rivers that meet the ocean.
These early settlers were hunter-gatherers who used stone tools for a wide range of activities, including hunting, butchery, scraping hides, preparing food, and making other tools out of bone and wood. Many of the pre-Clovis stone tools look fairly simple and were made by using one stone to flake pieces off the other, thus creating sharp edges. At the campsite in Argentina, known as the Arroyo Seco 2 site, archaeologists have found more than 50 such tools made from materials like chert and quartzite. They’re scattered across an area that was once a grassy knoll above a deep lake, which is rich with thousands of animal bone fragments that have been carbon dated to as early as 14,000 years ago. There are even a couple-dozen human burials at the site, dated to a later period starting roughly 9,000 years ago. The spot has the characteristic look of a hunter’s camp, used for processing animals, that was revisited seasonally for thousands of years.

Writing in PLoS One, the researchers describe a number of reasons why a bunch of sharp-edged rocks and broken animal bones point to a 14,000-year-old human occupation of Argentina. First of all, there are far too many animal bones from a diversity of species grouped in one place for it to be accidental. Yes, there are some natural traps where we find massive numbers of prehistoric bones, but those are almost always in holes or depressions in the ground—and this area was on a rather high hill during the Pleistocene. Second, the stones aren’t just sharp-edged in a way that suggests flaking; many also show signs of wear and tear from scraping hide. “A large majority of the flaked edges were used transversely on dry skin,” the researchers write. “Consequently, it is likely that the skins were brought to the site in a state of intermediate processing.” Also, most of the stone used for the tools, including quartzite and chert, can only be found over 110km from Arroyo Seco. So that piece of evidence also points to human hunter-gatherers carrying tools with them over great distances.
The Pleistocene diet

One question remains. How can we be sure the tools at the site really are 14,000 years old? Archaeologists infer some of this from carbon dates on the animal bones, which have been tested by several labs around the world. The problem is that the site’s stratigraphy, or historical layers, are difficult to read due to erosion at the site. So even if a tool appears right next to a bone in a given layer, it may have come from later and been moved around by wind and water. That said, there is evidence that some of the early bones were broken by stone tools. A 14,000-year-old bone from Equus neogeus, an extinct American horse, bears distinct marks from a hammerstone. “This bone was intentionally broken while still fresh,” note the researchers.

With a firm connection between the human tools and the animal bones found at Arroyo Seco, we can begin to piece together what everyday life was like for these people—at least at mealtime. Analysis of more than 600 bone fragments out of thousands found at the site revealed that a large amount of these people’s meat came from animals that no longer exist. Various extinct horse species were a major part of the pre-Clovis diet, as were other extinct mammals like giant ground sloths, camels, mammoths, and giant armadillos. When these people arrived in South America, they found a land that no human had ever colonized. Many of these species would have been easy pickings for well-organized bands of hunters with sophisticated languages, tools, and tactics. Some paleoecologists hypothesize that these animals went extinct partly due to human hunting, and this campsite definitely provides evidence that extinct animals were part of the pre-Clovis diet for millennia. That said, Arroyo Seco contains far more bones from guanaco (a local relative of the camel) and rodents than it does from extinct mammals.

The absence of certain bones can tell us about how these people lived, too. Though there are bones from megafauna like the giant sloth Megatherium, we see no skulls, chest, or pelvic bones from the animal. The researchers speculate that’s because hunters would have done an initial butchery at the site where they killed or scavenged the animal and then transported parts of it to be processed at camp:

Given the body mass of this species (between 4 and 5 tons), it would have been extremely difficult to transport the entire carcass and even challenging to transport complete hindquarters weighing between 600 and 750 kg, and forequarters weighing between 250 and 300 kg. Taking into consideration these values, the best hypothesis is that the Megatherium was hunted or scavenged near the site, the skeleton was butchered into smaller parts, and these units were then transported to their current location at the site. The larger bones were transported with portions of meat already removed, and the bone may have been used for other purposes such as bone quarrying.

Of the extinct mammals that humans processed at Arroyo Seco, the most common seems to be horse. When people arrived in the Americas, it was full of at least two species of extinct horses. But by the time of the Inca and other great civilizations of South America, those animals were long gone. It wasn’t until Europeans arrived with their steeds that the continent was once again populated with horses.

Still, we can look back and imagine what it must have been like for those pre-Clovis people, entering a world where no human had ever gone before, full of animals that are legendary to us today. In many ways, they lived on a different planet than the one we inhabit now. At the edge of a now mostly vanished lake, on a knoll, those people fed their families, made tools, and strategized about how to hunt for game bigger than anything on land in the modern world. They returned year after year for centuries. Eventually, they buried their dead there among the animal bones left by their ancestors.

 

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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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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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