Monday, December 3, 2012

12,000 Year Old Textiles and Rope Fragments Found in Peru

Guitarrero Cave is located in the intermontane Callejo'n de Huaylas Valley (2,500–4,000 m) in the north central highlands of Peru, at an elevation of 2,580 m. Excavations defined two cultural complexes.  The earliest, Complex I, is characterized by flakes, scrapers, a tanged triangular bladed projectile point, the remains of deer, rodents, rabbits, and birds.  The overlying Complex II yielded the same and additional species of animals. Different materials in several forms like: triangular, lanceolate, also other projectile points and artifacts made of wood, bone, and plant fiber. 

"By dating the textiles themselves, we were able to confirm their antiquity and refine the timing of the early occupation of the Andes highlands,”  Jolie said in the report published in Current Anthropology.  His team used radiocarbon dating technique, accelerated mass spectrometry to date the textiles fragments at between 12,100 and 11,080 years old.

Partially carbonized fragment of a close-twined 
bag or cloth.(top right) Opentwined mat or basket 
showing organic residue. (bottom) 

The textile items include fragments of woven fabrics possibly used for bags, baskets, wall or floor coverings and/or bedding. They were likely left by settlers from lower altitude areas during “periodic forays" into the mountains, the researchers said.  “Guitarrero Cave’s location at a lower elevation in a more temperate environment as compared with the high Andean [plain] made it an ideal site for humans to camp and provision themselves for excursions to even higher altitudes,” Jolie and his colleagues write.

This textiles fragments have become the oldest examples of this technology in South America and are among the earliest from all of the Americas. The next firmly dated textiles from South America derive from Paloma, also in Peru, dated to as early as 8,800 cal yr BP (calibrated Years before the present), those are similar cordage, netting, bags, twined matting, and clothing made from plant fibers.

Stone Point found at the Cave. 

Fragments of knotted cords, possibly from nets, from Quebrada Jaguay, Peru, date to about ∼10,600 cal yr BP and small fish bones, including drum as well as anchovy and marine bird bones dated to ∼12,500 cal yr BP at Quebrada Tacahuay, Peru, further imply the existence of early and sophisticated netting technology in coastal Peru.

Three pieces of rope or string, probably used for binding or lashing,
revealed by radiocarbon dating to be as much as
12,1000 years old.

The c14 date and the technical execution of the Guitarrero textiles and cordage show the existence of a highly developed fiber based technology for transport, trapping, hunting, and cooking, continuing to confirm a complex and early date of colonization of the Americas.

Dating by accelerator mass spectrometry of wooden artifacts, cord, and charcoal samples from Guitarrero Cave supports the antiquity of South America's earliest textiles and other perishable remains such as the fire making stick and the woven twine. The dates are consistent with those obtained from C14 counters and leave little doubt about the integrity of the lower preceramic layers and their early cultivated plants.

Fire making stick

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© Images credit: Edward A. Jolie and Phil R. Geib.

Edward A. Jolie, Thomas F. Lynch, Phil R. Geib, and J. M. Adovasio, "Cordage, Textiles, and the Late Pleistocene Peopling of the Andes." Current Anthropology 42:2 (April 2011)

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