Article

The late Pleistocene Pilauco site, Osorno, south-central Chile

Quaternary International (Impact Factor: 1.96). 11/2013; 299:3–12. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.05.001

ABSTRACT Paleontological and archaeological sites have frequently been found in open locations of the Intermediate Depression of south-central Chile. This paper presents the results of two field sampling seasons carried out at the Pilauco Site (ca. 39°S) and compares them with those of three well known sites in Chile: Quereo, Tagua-Tagua and Monte Verde, ca. 32°, 34° and 41°S, respectively. Stratigraphic data collected at Pilauco and the resulting radiocarbon age model suggest that before 12,540 ± 90 BP the old Damas River eroded an older volcaniclastic hill, which was followed by a bog formation in an ox-bow lake. The site was developing up to 11,004 ± 186 BP, the date of the youngest vertebrate fossil. Two younger peat beds seal the site. As in Tagua-Tagua and Monte Verde, Gomphotheres are the most represented megafauna. Fossils of Equidae, Camelidae, Cervidae, Mephitidae, Muridae, Myocastoridae and Xenarthra are also found in Pilauco. As a whole, 718 bones, 30 teeth and 11 coprolites represent the extinct and extant vertebrates. Preliminary taphonomic results suggest action of various agents in the bones, i.e. trampling, root etching, abrasion, and carnivore gnawing. The spatial analysis suggests the transfer of smaller anatomical units (e.g. bones of camelids and horses) and the rearrangement of some pieces comparatively large (e.g. gomphothere bones). Similar to the present day north Patagonian landscape, the area where Pilauco site is located had a variety of animal resources, plants and stones in an ecotone between hills, floodplains and wetlands. A total of 101 lithics were recorded: basalt and quartzite were collected from nearby fluvial deposits and dacitic obsidian from the local volcaniclastic deposits. Debitage is the most represented lithic item (75%); cores and marginal edge-trimmed artifacts represented 12 and 13%, respectively. Artifacts and flakes are spatially and temporality associated in the same PB-7 bed with high bone concentrations in some specific areas, between 361 and 424 cm of local altitude. This industry is characterized by a recurrent lithic expedite technology with production of flakes and chips which mastered marginal retouches over the bifacial trimming. This seems to be connected to strategic conditions of high resource diversity, especially of human groups with a high or medium mobility across land. Pilauco represents a site contemporaneous to Monte Verde related as well to the first human occupation in the southern cone of South America, but with higher mammal diversity.

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