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Carbon dating identifies South America's oldest textiles to 12,000 years ago

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« on: April 16, 2011, 04:04:32 pm »

Public release date: 13-Apr-2011
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University of Chicago Press Journals
Carbon dating identifies South America's oldest textiles

Textiles and rope fragments found in a Peruvian cave have been dated to around 12,000 years ago, making them the oldest textiles ever found in South America, according to a report in the April issue of Current Anthropology.

The items were found 30 years ago in Guitarrero Cave high in the Andes Mountains. Other artifacts found along with the textiles had been dated to 12,000 ago and even older. However, the textiles themselves had never been dated, and whether they too were that old had been controversial, according to Edward Jolie, an archaeologist at Mercyhurst College (PA) who led this latest research.

The cave had been disturbed frequently by human and geological activity, so it was possible that the textiles could have belonged to much more recent inhabitants. What's more, the prior radiocarbon dates for the site had been taken from bone, obsidian, and charcoal—items that are known to sometimes produce inaccurate radiocarbon ages. According to Jolie, charcoal especially can produce dates that tend to overestimate a site's age.

"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. His team used the latest radiocarbon dating technique—accelerated mass spectrometry—to place the textiles at between 12,100 and 11,080 years old.

The textile items include fragments of woven fabrics possibly used for bags, baskets, wall or floor coverings, or bedding. They were likely left by settlers from lower altitude areas during "periodic forays" into the mountains, the researchers say. "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.

These early mountain forays set the stage for the permanent settlements that came later—after 11,000 years ago—when the climate had warmed, glaciers receded, and settlers had a chance to adapt to living at higher altitudes.

Jolie's research also suggests that women were among these earliest high altitude explorers. Bundles of processed plant material found in the cave indicate that textile weaving occurred on site. "Given what we know about textile and basket production in other cultures, there's a good possibility that it would have been women doing this work," Jolie said.

"There's an assumption that these early forays into the mountains must have been made exclusively by men," he added. "It appears that might not be the case, though more work needs to be done to prove it."

###

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).

Current Anthropology is a transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/uocp-cdi041311.php
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2011, 11:26:48 pm »

12,000 year old textiles found in Peruvian cave



Entrance to Guitarrero Cave and fragment of woven material © Image credit: E. A. Jolie and P. R. Geib.
12,000 year old textiles found in Peruvian cave



Sunday, April 17, 2011  |  Featured, News

Textiles and rope fragments found in a Peruvian cave have been dated to around 12,000 years ago, making them the oldest textiles ever found in South America, according to a report in the April issue of Current Anthropology.

Map of sitesThe items were found 30 years ago in Guitarrero Cave high in the Andes Mountains. Other artefacts found along with the textiles had been dated to 12,000 ago and even older. However, the textiles themselves had never been dated, and whether they too were that old had been controversial, according to Edward Jolie, an archaeologist at Mercyhurst College (PA) who led this latest research.

Guitarrero Cave is located in the intermontane Callejo´n de Huaylas Valley (2,500–4,000 m) in the north-central highlands of Peru. Situated at an elevation of 2,580 m, excavations defined two early cultural complexes. The earliest, Complex I, is characterized by flakes, scrapers, a tanged triangular-bladed projectile point, and the remains of deer and small game including rodents, rabbits, and birds.  The overlying Complex II yielded the same and additional species of animals. Cultural materials include triangular, lanceolate, and other contracting-stem projectile points and artefacts made of wood, bone, and plant fibre.
The woven material

The fibre-based artefact assemblage included four coils and two bundles of finely processed fibre indicative of artefact construction material, 53 lengths of unknotted and knotted cordage of variable diameter, and three fragments of finely woven textiles of different structural techniques.

The cave had been disturbed frequently by human and geological activity, so it was possible that the textiles could have belonged to much more recent inhabitants. What’s more, the prior radiocarbon dates for the site had been taken from bone, obsidian, and charcoal—items that are known to sometimes produce inaccurate radiocarbon ages. According to Jolie, charcoal especially can produce dates that tend to overestimate a site’s age.
Dating the textiles

“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. His team used the latest radiocarbon dating technique—accelerated mass spectrometry—to place the textiles at between 12,100 and 11,080 years old.
Three pieces of rope or string, probably used for binding or lashing, revealed by radiocarbon dating to be as much as 12,100 years old © Image credit: Edward A. Jolie and Phil R. Geib.

Three pieces of rope or string, probably used for binding or lashing, revealed by radiocarbon dating to be as much as 12,100 years old © Image credit: Edward A. Jolie and Phil R. Geib.

The textile items include fragments of woven fabrics possibly used for bags, baskets, wall or floor coverings, or bedding. They were likely left by settlers from lower altitude areas during “periodic forays” into the mountains, the researchers say. “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.
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Warthanex
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2011, 11:28:05 pm »

These early mountain forays set the stage for the permanent settlements that came later—after 11,000 years ago—when the climate had warmed, glaciers receded, and settlers had a chance to adapt to living at higher altitudes.
The textiles in context

In context, the Guitarrero textiles have become the oldest examples of this technology from 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, and again are similar cordage, netting, bags, twined matting, and clothing made from plant fibres.

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 at Quebrada Jaguay 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.

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

    * Lynch, Thomas F, R. Gillespie, John A. J. Gowlett, and R. E. M. Hedges. Chronology of Guitarrero Cave, Peru. Science. August 1985
    * Weber, George. Guitarrero cave (Ancash, Peru). Possible Relatives in the Americas. 11 July 2007
    * Peter Neal Peregrine, Melvin Ember, Human Relations Area Files – Encyclopaedia of Prehistory 2002
    * Guitarrero Cave

http://www.pasthorizons.com/index.php/archives/04/2011/12000-year-old-textiles-found-in-peruvian-cave
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Warthanex
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2011, 11:30:09 pm »



Partially carbonized fragment of a close-twined bag or cloth.(top right) Opentwined mat or basket showing organic residue. (bottom) © Image credit: Edward A. Jolie and Phil R. Geib.
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