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Bioarchaeology of Andean South America: Past Contributions and Current Research

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In recent years bioarchaeology has become a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse research area in South America in general, and in the Andean Area in particular. Bioarchaeologists are making important contributions to issues such as the peopling of South America, interactions between populations of the coast, highlands, and tropical forest, the possible health impacts of increasing social complexity and state formation, environmental challenges and human adaptation, evidence of warfare, and other research questions. This research is by definition multidisciplinary, involving collaboration between biological anthropologists, archaeologists, and specialists in genetics, geochemistry and other scientific disciplines. These collaborative research programs are producing important new data on the archaeology and history of human occupation of Andean South America.

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Article
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Article
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Article
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Article
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Article
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The Wari empire flourished in the central, highland Peruvian Andes from AD 600-1000, and although the events that led to its demise are unknown, archaeological evidence indicates that Wari control waned at the end of the first millennium. Here, we test the hypothesis that, despite the major shift in social and political organization at the fall of the Wari empire, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) composition of populations from the Ayacucho Basin, the former imperial heartland of the empire, remained essentially unchanged. Results show that mtDNA haplogroup frequencies among the Wari and post-Wari groups differ, but the difference is not statistically significant (chi2 = 5.886, df = 3, P = 0.1172). This is the first study in the Andes to use haplotypic data to evaluate the observed genetic distance between two temporally distinct prehispanic populations (F(ST) = 0.029) against modeled expectations of four possible evolutionary scenarios. None of these simulations allowed the rejection of continuity. In total, at both the haplogroup and haplotype levels these data do not allow us to reject the hypothesis that post-Wari individuals sampled in this study are the maternal descendants of those sampled from the Wari era site of Conchopata. However, genetic homogeneity in the mitochondrial gene pool, as seen in the late prehispanic southern Andes, may also characterize our study region. But, prior to this research, this was unknown. If our new data show mtDNA homogeneity, then this could limit the detection of female migration if, in fact, it occurred. Nonetheless, the novel mtDNA data presented here currently do not support the hypothesis that there was an influx of genetically distinct females into the former Wari heartland after the Wari collapse.
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