martes, 17 de septiembre de 2013

Conquering the Atacama desert (Chile)

Few archaeological sites in South America contain uncontroversial evidence for when the first peopling of the continent occurred. Largely ignored in this debate, extreme environments are assumed either as barriers to this early wave of migration or without potential for past habitability.
The heart of the Atacama desert is one of the the driest place on Earth, yet the first settlers of South America set up home there more than 12,790 years ago.
The desert was just as harsh then as it is today however, Claudio Latorre of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago and other archaeologists, have been excavating a site called Quebrada Manih which lies 85 kilometres inland, 1240 metres above sea level and only receives rain a few times a century.

A diverse cultural assemblage
During the latest Pleistocene, this location harboured wetlands and riparian woodlands that were fed by increased rainfall further east in the central Andes. Excavations yielded a diverse cultural assemblage of stone tools, burned and cut bones, marine gastropods, pigments, plant fibres and wooden artefacts, alongside a prepared fireplace.
Oasis stopping point
Quebrada Mani could have been an important oasis stopping point during journeys both inland and returning to the coast with the early settlers needing to have a skilled sense of direction to move between the widely dispersed locations.
“We need to think in terms of oasis hopping,” agrees Silvia Gonzalez, of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. She has found similar archaeological sites in Mexican deserts.
Even at this early stage, there was probably trade, with distant settlements exchanging items like sea shells and volcanic glass.

Source: Past Horizons:

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