Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Simple technologies and diverse food strategies of the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene at Huaca Prieta, Coastal Peru

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Science Advances  24 May 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 5, e1602778
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602778

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Abstract

Simple pebble tools, ephemeral cultural features, and the remains of maritime and terrestrial foods are present in undisturbed Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene deposits underneath a large human-made mound at Huaca Prieta and nearby sites on the Pacific coast of northern Peru. Radiocarbon ages indicate an intermittent human presence dated between ~15,000 and 8000 calendar years ago before the mound was built. The absence of fishhooks, harpoons, and bifacial stone tools suggests that technologies of gathering, trapping, clubbing, and exchange were used primarily to procure food resources along the shoreline and in estuarine wetlands and distant mountains. The stone artifacts are minimally worked unifacial stone tools characteristic of several areas of South America. Remains of avocado, bean, and possibly cultivated squash and chile pepper are also present, suggesting human transport and consumption. Our new findings emphasize an early coastal lifeway of diverse food procurement strategies that suggest detailed observation of resource availability in multiple environments and a knowledgeable economic organization, although technologies were simple and campsites were seemingly ephemeral and discontinuous. These findings raise questions about the pace of early human movement along some areas of the Pacific coast and the level of knowledge and technology required to exploit maritime and inland resources.

Keywords
  • late Pleistocene
  • early Holocene Huaca Prieta
  • Peru
  • simple stone tools
  • chile pepper
  • early peopling

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