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

Quaternary International (Impact Factor: 1.96). 07/2013; 301:46-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.06.012

ABSTRACT 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.

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    ABSTRACT: This interdisciplinary study represents an approximation towards understanding how regional human cultural systems may have been affected by climate change in the northernmost Chilean Altiplano (>3600 m) over the last ca. 11 500 cal a BP. We compare the archaeological record from Hakenasa cave with the lake record from Lago Chungará sediment cores, located 50 km to the south. By integrating both of these archives in conjunction with regional palaeoclimate and archaeological data, we provide new evidence for the role of changing environmental and climatic conditions in human settlement patterns. The first human occupation of the entire Altiplano occurs at Hakenasa and is dated to 9980 ± 40 14C a BP (11 265–11 619 cal. a BP), and took place under wetter regional climate conditions. An archaeologically sterile deposit occurs at Hakenasa between 7870 and 6890 cal. a BP. Constituted by sands and gravels, these sediments are interpreted as a flood event. This time period is synchronous with alternating short dry and wet events recorded in the Lake Chungará sedimentary sequence. Human activity resumes and increases in importance at Hakenasa by ca. 6000 cal. a BP. This corresponds to wetter conditions indicated by the Chungará record. Even though the lake record indicates intense volcanic activity over the last 6000 cal. a BP, this had little or no impact on the human population present at Hakenasa. This study shows that even in this extreme environment human settlement patterns do not always respond in a linear fashion to environmental change. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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  • Journal of World History. 01/2012; 23(1):149-152.
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    ABSTRACT: Stratigraphic analyses of outcrops, shorelines, and diatoms from the southern Bolivian Altiplano (Uyuni-Coipasa basin) reveal two major lacustrine phases during the late-glacial period and the early Holocene, based on a chronology established by radiocarbon and U/Th control. A comparison of14C and230Th/234U ages shows that during times of high lake level, radiocarbon ages are valid. However, during low-water periods,14C ages must be corrected for a reservoir effect. The lacustrine Tauca phase started a little before 16,00014C yr B.P., and the lake level reached its maximum between 13,000 and 12,00014C yr B.P. A dry event (Ticaña) occurred after ca. 12,000 and before 950014C yr B.P. A moderate lacustrine oscillation (Coipasa event) occurred between ca. 9500 and 850014C yr B.P., using a reservoir-corrected conventional14C chronology. Comparisons between the lake-level chronology in the Uyuni-Coipasa basin and data from other southern tropical areas of South America suggest that the lacustrine evolution may reflect large-scale climatic changes.
    Quaternary Research 01/1999; · 2.58 Impact Factor


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Jun 1, 2014