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.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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.
    Journal of Quaternary Science 04/2009; 24(4):373 - 382. · 2.66 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The time is particularly ripe for a new, integrative summary and reappraisal of the evidence for and our understanding of the prehistoric peopling of the Americas. In recent years, a pre-Clovis inhabitation of the New World has been accepted by a majority of archaeologists (a revolutionary development, after decades of skepticism), there is a new openness toward coastal route entry scenarios, and the development of genetic evidence has offered new, rich models of prehistoric colonization. We are fortunate, then, to have the recent book by David J. Meltzer, First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America, a state-of-the-art summary by one of anthropology's leading scholars of early American prehistory. Its thoroughness, attention to complexity and debate, and eminent readability mark it as a significant contribution for specialists and nonspecialists alike. The book's central questions are straightforward: who first colonized the Americas (i.e., one migratory pulse or several?), when did they come, how and why did they make the journey across Beringia and throughout two continents, what were their cultural adaptations, and—importantly—what range of possible answers to these questions does the substantial and growing (but necessarily incomplete) body of evidence support? Meltzer's approach regarding this last question is particularly notable. First, he brings together in one volume a vast wealth of interdisciplinary data and models, drawing adroitly on archaeology, geology, chemistry, linguistics, genetics, anatomy, ecology, and epidemiology. Meltzer's narrative, however, is not merely a masterful orchestration of facts, but a series of compelling historical and contemporary vignettes, with real people and personalities, that illustrates how science operates. The development of theories about the peopling of the Americas during the Paleoindian Period (ca. 12,000-10,000 B.P.) has always been dependent on the interaction of raw data with politics, power, and personalities, and Meltzer's integration of historical figures such as Charles Abbot and Aleš Hrdlicka serves dual purposes—they simultaneously demonstrate the contingencies of scientific progress and provide enthralling reading. The book's ten chapters investigate different but overlapping questions regarding early American prehistory (and thus could serve as useful excerpts for student readings or the interested layperson). After providing a broader context in American prehistory, the first two chapters provide detailed summaries of archaeological methods and geologic and ecological perspectives on the landscapes the first Americans must have traversed. Chapters 3 and 4 provide a historical account of the evolution of our understanding of the Paleoindian Period—including the personalities, controversies, and sidepaths that marked that evolution—and of the recent resolution of the "Pre-Clovis Controversy" with the remarkable pre-Clovis Monte Verde site in Chile. (Here, Meltzer's insider account of the meeting of leading archaeologists at a bar in Chile to discuss the validity of the site adds a storyline almost as compelling as the revolutionary site itself.) Chapters 5 and 6 assess the genetic, linguistic, and morphological (dental and cranial) evidence for early human migrations into the Americas with close analytical attention to points of convergence and divergence among the varied approaches. Chapter 7 is particularly fascinating, although by necessity the book's most speculative: how and why did early Americans fan out across two unknown continents so rapidly? (The dispersal of hunter-gatherer populations from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in less than one thousand years sets something of a prehistoric speed record.) Meltzer's discussions of "landscape learning" and "wayfinding" in this chapter, based upon cross-cultural examples and predictive models from behavioral ecology, kindles the imagination as well as scholarly understanding of this rapid and poorly known prehistoric expansion. In chapter 8, Meltzer's objective is clear: with logical and empirical cannons ablaze, he dismantles and discredits the "Overkill Hypothesis" that attributes the extinction of thirty-five genera of late Pleistocene megafauna in the Americas to newly arrived humans. While his arguments and review of evidence convinced this reader, it was also interesting to note the subtle change in Meltzer's tone from balanced moderator of competing theories to axe-grinding partisan. Chapter 9, the book's penultimate chapter, examines the climatic changes and adaptive diversification and regionalization that accompanied the warming world of the terminal Pleistocene (ten...
    Journal of World History 01/2012; 23(1):149-152.
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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


Available from
Jun 1, 2014