The earliest human occupations in Bolivia: A review of the archaeological evidence

Quaternary International (Impact Factor: 2.06). 07/2013; 301:46-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.06.012


This paper reviews archaeological research of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites in Bolivia. Given that few projects have explicitly dealt with issues related to early human peopling of the country, an attempt is made to provide a comprehensive overview of known available data, focusing on radiocarbon dated sites. Recent research in different regions of the country is not only improving understanding of the variability of early human settlements, but also providing new perspectives in relation to human adaptation and climate change. Furthermore, ongoing research in Iroco and Cueva Bautista, in the highland region of the country, shows that human colonization of high-altitude ecosystems (>3800 m asl) occurred, at least, by 13,000 cal BP.

Download full-text


Available from: José M. Capriles, Jan 30, 2014
  • Source
    • "This visibility issue is compounded by later Holocene fluvial processes which have buried large expanses of the lowlands [22]. The noted absence of any documented Archaic sites in the Bolivian lowlands [12] may, therefore, be a consequence of poor visibility and the absence of adequate archaeological correlates for identifying hunter-gatherer open-air sites in a landscape completely devoid of lithic resources and other non-perishable materials. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We report on previously unknown early archaeological sites in the Bolivian lowlands, demonstrating for the first time early and middle Holocene human presence in western Amazonia. Multidisciplinary research in forest islands situated in seasonally-inundated savannahs has revealed stratified shell middens produced by human foragers as early as 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest archaeological sites in the region. The absence of stone resources and partial burial by recent alluvial sediments has meant that these kinds of deposits have, until now, remained unidentified. We conducted core sampling, archaeological excavations and an interdisciplinary study of the stratigraphy and recovered materials from three shell midden mounds. Based on multiple lines of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, sedimentary proxies (elements, steroids and black carbon), micromorphology and faunal analysis, we demonstrate the anthropogenic origin and antiquity of these sites. In a tropical and geomorphologically active landscape often considered challenging both for early human occupation and for the preservation of hunter-gatherer sites, the newly discovered shell middens provide evidence for early to middle Holocene occupation and illustrate the potential for identifying and interpreting early open-air archaeological sites in western Amazonia. The existence of early hunter-gatherer sites in the Bolivian lowlands sheds new light on the region's past and offers a new context within which the late Holocene "Earthmovers" of the Llanos de Moxos could have emerged.
    PLoS ONE 08/2013; 8(8):e72746. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0072746 · 3.23 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Few archeological sites in South America contain uncontroversial evidence for when the first peopling of the continent occurred. Largely ignored in this debate, extreme environments are assumed either as barriers to this early wave of migration or without potential for past habitability. Here, we report on a rare 12e13 ka human occupation from Quebrada Maní (site QM12), a plantless, near rainless landscape (1240 m asl and 85 km from the Pacific Ocean) located in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert. This location harbored wetlands and riparian woodlands that were fed by increased rainfall further east in the central Andes during the latest Pleistocene. Excavations at QM12 yielded a diverse cultural assemblage of lithics, burned and cut bones, marine gastropods, pigments, plant fibers, and wooden artifacts alongside a prepared fireplace. Sixteen radiocarbon dates from site QM12 on charcoal, marine shells, animal dung, plant remains and wood reveal that the occupation took place between 12.8 and 11.7 ka. These results demonstrate that the Atacama Desert was not a barrier to early American settlement and dispersal, and provide new clues for understanding the cultural complexity and diversity of the peopling of South America during the Last Glacialeinterglacial transition.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 08/2013; 77:19-30. DOI:10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.06.008 · 4.57 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The domestication of llamas and alpacas was fundamental for the cultural and economic development of Andean societies, but the origins of camelid pastoralism as a distinct mode of socioeconomic organization remain little understood. Whereas most archaeological interpretations of prehispanic highland societies emphasize the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture as a process marked by the establishment of agricultural sedentary villages, other subsistence and mobility strategies have been for the most part overlooked. A case in point is the Wankarani cultural complex from the Central Altiplano of Bolivia, which has been interpreted as an example of an early village-based sedentary society. Here, I argue that a model of mobile pastoralism based on ethnoarchaeological research better explains the Central Altiplano's Formative period archaeological record. Recently collected data support this proposition. Settlement patterns consisted of multiple dispersed camps attached to residential bases occupied recurrently. Horizontal excavations from a residential base revealed structures and features analogous to pastoralist landscapes documented around the world. Faunal identification confirmed the preponderance of domesticated camelids. Based on this evidence, I argue that we need better explanatory frameworks for approaching the origins, organization, and variability associated with early food producing societies such as mobile camelid pastoralists.
    Latin American Antiquity 03/2014; 25(1):3-26. DOI:10.7183/1045-6635.25.1.3
Show more