Earliest human occupationsEdit
The earliest humans that came to South America are known as Paleo-Indians. This period is generally known as the Lithic stage. After this came the period that is widely known as Archaic, although there are also some different classifications of this period. The precise classification is complicated because somewhat different terminologies tend to be used for North America and Mesoamerica.
Andean preceramic period would include some cultures that belong to Lithic and Archaic stages.
Preceramic in PeruEdit
Zaña Valley in northern Peru contains the earliest known canals in South America. These were small preceramic stone-lined canals which drew water from streams in the Andes Mountains region. These canals may have been built as early as 6,700 years ago.
A lot of archaeological work has been done in Peru in relation to the preceramic cultures. While Norte Chico civilization has now been studied extensively, there are also many other sites.
Norte Chico civilizationEdit
This ancient period is studied most extensively in relation to the archaeology of Peru. In particular, the Norte Chico civilization is very important. The most impressive achievement of this civilization was its monumental architecture, including large earthwork platform mounds and sunken circular plazas. Also, these preceramic peoples were building massive irrigation and water management projects.
Archaeological evidence suggests a very early use of textiles, and in particular the use of cotton. Also, recent studies (2013) indicate that maize played a big role in this civilization starting as early as 3000 BC, contrary to previous beliefs. Also, beans and sweet potato were grown.
Norte Chico sites are notable for exceptional collective density, as well as individual size. Haas argues that the density of sites in such a small area is globally unique for a nascent civilization. During the third millennium BC, Norte Chico may have been the most densely populated area of the world (excepting, possibly, northern China). The Supe, Pativilca, Fortaleza, and Huaura River valleys each have several related sites.
Caral was first fully documented and analyzed by Dr. Ruth Shady Solís and other Peruvian archaeologists in the late 1990s. A 2001 paper in Science, providing a survey of the Caral research, and a 2004 article in Nature, describing fieldwork and radiocarbon dating across a wider area, revealed Norte Chico's full significance and led to widespread interest.
As a result, Norte Chico has pushed back the horizon for complex societies in the Peruvian region by more than one thousand years.
Besides the lack of pottery, a remarkable feature of this civilization is the apparent absence of any artistic or religious symbolism. Or at least they have not been identified so far.
Nevertheless, there is evidence for the worship of certain deities, such as the Staff God, a leering figure with a hood and fangs. The Staff God is a major deity of later Andean cultures, and it has been suggested that its use so early points to the worship of common symbols of gods for a long period of time.
Sophisticated government is assumed to have been required to manage the ancient Norte Chico. Questions still remain over its organization, particularly the influence of food resources on politics.
Some scholars suggested that Norte Chico was founded on seafood and maritime resources, rather than on the development of an agricultural cereal and crop surpluses, as has been considered essential to the rise of other ancient civilizations. Yet now these views are being revised because of strong evidence for maize consumption.
Casma and Sechin riversEdit
Several major preceramic archaeological sites are located in the valleys of the Casma River and its tributary the Sechin River. The largest among them is Sechin Alto; the other big mounds are Sechin Bajo, Mojeque, Cerro Sechin, Las Haldas and several others. The dates for these sites start at c. 3600 BCE.
Kotosh Religious TraditionEdit
The Kotosh Religious Tradition is a term used by archaeologists to refer to the ritual buildings that were constructed in the mountain drainages of the Andes between circa 3000 and c.1800 BCE, during the Andean preceramic.
Archaeologists have identified and excavated a number of these ritual centers; the first of these to be discovered was that at Kotosh, although since then further examples have been found at Shillacoto, Wairajirca, Huaricoto, La Galgada and Piruru. These sites are all located in highland zones that are lower than the Puna, and yet there are considerable distances separating them. In spite of this, all these cases of highland preceramic public architecture are remarkably similar.
Other cultural traditionsEdit
El Paraiso, Peru is a very large early center in the Ancón-Chillón Valley, that may be somewhat related to the Norte Chico tradition. It is approximately from the same time frame as the above. It is just one of the six major preceramic sites in the Ancón-Chillón Valley, including Ancon (archaeological site).
Another important site is Bandurria, Peru, on the Huaura River, featuring monumental architecture that may go back to mid-fourth millennium BC.
In the northern peruvian coast stand out sites such as Huaca Prieta, were the earliest recorded use of indigo dye to date was found and Huaca Ventarron, its painted murals are the oldest discovered in the Americas.
Preceramic in EcuadorEdit
In Ecuador, the Preceramic period is believed to have started around 9000 BC, and lasted until around 4200 BC. According to Jeffrey Quilter, Ecuador yielded plentiful evidence of early dense occupations of the highlands that is so far not found either in Peru or in Bolivia.
Along the Pacific Coast, the Las Vegas culture predominated, while up in the mountains, it was the Inga culture.
The Las Vegas culture is the first known culture in Ecuador. They lived on the Santa Elena Peninsula on the coast of Ecuador between 9000–6000 BC. The skeletal remains and other finds preserve much evidence of this culture.
Scientists have classified three phases of cultural development. The earliest people were hunter-gathers and fisherman. Approximately 6000 BC, these peoples were among the first to begin farming; among their early crops were bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria, and an early type of maize, Zea mays L.
El Inga peoples lived high in the mountains near present-day Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Evidence from the archeological site El Inca date the culture to 9000–8000 BC. Excavations were undertaken around 1961. It is believed that, from the archaeological perspective, this area is one of the most important in South America, and it may have existed along an ancient trade route.
Some of the tools used by these early nomadic hunters have provided relationships to the Clovis culture "Level I" at Fell's Cave in southern Chile, and technological relationships to the late Pleistocene "fluted point" complexes of North America.
Preceramic in ColombiaEdit
El Abra is an important early human settlement site in Colombia with a large cave system. Its investigation started in 1967, and the stratigraphy of lithic instruments, bones and vegetal charcoal with radiocarbon dating established the date of the settlement in 12,400 BP ± 160 years. Other preceramic archaeological sites are Tibitó (11,850 BP), Tequendama, dated to 11,000 years BP, Checua (dated to 8500 BP), Aguazuque (5000 BP) and El Infiernito, dated to 4900 years BP.
Preceramic in BoliviaEdit
The earliest cultures of Bolivia are the Wankarani culture, and the Chiripa. The earliest Wankarani sites are dated from 1800 BC onwards. Wankarani culture arose in the area of the current Oruro Department in Bolivia near Lake Poopo. The Wankarani had developed a copper metallurgy by 1200 B.C.
The area of the Altiplano close to Bolivia yielded the earliest evidence of metalworking in South America. This is the site of Jisk'a Iru Muqu, also spelled Jiskairumoko, in the Lake Titikaka basin, which was first investigated in 1994. A necklace consisting of nine gold beads was found in an excavated grave located next to a Terminal Archaic pit-house. Charcoal recovered from the burial dates the gold beads to 2155-1936 cal BC
Preceramic in ChileEdit
Some of the early preceramic cultures flourished both in Peru and in Chile. This applies to the Chinchorro culture that was active in what is now northern Chile and southern Peru. This culture left us the Chinchorro mummies; these are the oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains in the world. The oldest mummy recovered from the Atacama Desert is dated around 7020 BC. This tradition is believed to have reached a peak around 3000 BC.
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