Ancient settlements discovery in Peruvian Andes


Stone tools found at Cuncaicha and Pucuncho sites in Peru. Image credit: Kurt Rademaker et al.

From Sci-News:

Archaeologists Discover Two 12,000-Year-Old High-Altitude Settlements in Peru

Oct 24, 2014

Archaeologists from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Peru, have discovered two ancient settlements in the Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes – named Cuncaicha and Pucuncho – which they say are the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world.

One scientific theory about high altitude colonization suggests that people cannot live in high altitudes until genetic adaptation occurs, like the sort we find in Andean people today.

Andeans have genetically adapted to their high altitude environment.

Key differences in the Andean people include a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations then the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.

“Was this adaptation present 12,000 years ago? We don’t know for certain,” said Dr Sonia Zarrillo of the University of Calgary, who is a co-author of the paper published in the journal Science.

The first site Dr Zarrillo and her colleagues discovered, Cuncaicha, is a rock shelter at 4.5 km above sea level, with a stone-tool workshop below it.

According to the archaeologists, it was occupied about 12,400-11,500 years ago.

The second site, Pucuncho, is an ancient workshop where stone tools were made at 4.4 km above sea level. It dates to around 12,800-11,500 years ago.

“We don’t know if people were living there year round, but we strongly suspect they were not just going there to hunt for a few days, then leaving. There were possibly even families living at these sites, because we’ve found evidence of a whole range of activities,” Dr Zarrillo said.

“Climatic conditions in both sites are harsh, with factors including low-oxygen, extreme cold and high levels of solar radiation making life in the region a challenge for any humans.”

She added: “our team hiked up to three or four hours to get to these sites. That was a climb, carrying all of our gear, camp equipment and food. And it freezes every night. Sometimes it snows. These are incredibly hard sites to access.”

Archaeological evidence found at the sites includes signs of habitation such as human skull fragments, animal remains and stone tools.

The Pucuncho site yielded 260 stone tools, such as projectile points, bifaces and unifacial scrapers. The Cuncaicha rock shelter contains a “robust, well-preserved and well-dated occupation sequence.”

“Most of the stone tools at Cuncaicha were made from locally available obsidian, andesite and jasper, and are indicative of hunting and butchering consistent with limited subsistence options on the plateau. In addition to plant remains, bones at the site indicate hunting of vicuña and guanaco camelids and the taruca deer,” the scientists said.

“At Cuncaicha we found remains representing whole animals. The types of stone tools we’ve found are not only hunting tools but also scraping tools used for processing hides to make things like clothing, bags or blankets,” Dr Zarrillo said.

New chinchilla rat species discovery in Peru


This video is called South American Mammals TRAILER.

From the Earth Times:

Cuscomys comes back from the [dead]

By Dave Armstrong – 29 Sep 2014 15:16:55 GMT

The Asháninka arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys ashaninka) has a new living cousin that also lives in trees and hung out with the Incas. The preserved rodents have been found in tombs so perhaps they have been more treasured in the past than they are now. The new species will be called Cuscomys oblativa as the northern Cusco locality is common to both animals while the head is slightly flattened, compared to its nearest relative, C. ashaninka The body measures 30cm, which males it cat-sized, even for the rat-like tail. The Andean cat, Leopardus jacobita is here for feline followers as “Andean cat in Patagonia”, now available in Argentina, well away from the mountains!

400 years ago, the species was known in pottery buried with Incas, then a photograph in 2009 was thought to indicate 2 new species of arboreal chinchilla rats were extant. The Asháninka species was only discovered in 1999. Roberto Quispe found the live animal in 2009 while the curator of a Mexican museum, Horacio Zeballos has been instrumental in searching Wiñayhuayna, an Inca site on the Machu Picchu trail. Montane and cloud forest dominate the plant communities there, although habitat loss could well be the prime danger for the Cuscomys.

All the researchers are presuming the species is herbivorous, but that can’t be easily proved. The rest of the work involved the discovery of at least 6 other new species to science, all increasing the hope that this big tourist resource of 2 National Parks will be worth greater conservation effort by the Peruvian authorities! More at Mongabay here as “In the shadows of Machu Picchu”.

Giant fossil penguin discovery in Antarctic


This video says about itself:

5 October 2010

Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of a five-foot-tall (150-centimeter-tall) penguin in present-day Peru. The 36-million-year-old fossil sheds light on bird evolution, according to National Geographic grantee Julia Clarke. Video produced by the University of Texas at Austin.

From New Scientist:

Extinct mega penguin was tallest and heaviest ever

01 August 2014 by Jeff Hecht

Forget emperor penguins, say hello to the colossus penguin. Newly unearthed fossils have revealed that Antarctica was once home to the biggest species of penguin ever discovered. It was 2 metres long and weighed a hefty 115 kilograms.

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii lived 37 to 40 million years ago. This was “a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast”, says Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina.

She has been excavating fossil deposits on Seymour Island, off the Antarctic peninsula. This was a warmer region 40 million years ago, with a climate like that of present-day Tierra del Fuego, the islands at the southern tip of South America.

The site has yielded thousands of penguin bones. Earlier this year, Acosta Hospitaleche reported the most complete P. klekowskii skeleton yet, although it contained only about a dozen bones, mostly from the wings and feet (Geobios, DOI: 10.1016/j.geobios.2014.03.003).

Now she has uncovered two bigger bones. One is part of a wing, and the other is a tarsometatarsus, formed by the fusion of ankle and foot bones. The tarsometatarsus measures a record 9.1 centimetres. Based on the relative sizes of bones in penguin skeletons, Acosta Hospitaleche estimates P. klekowskii was 2.01 meters long from beak tip to toes.

Its height will have been somewhat less than its length owing to the way penguins stand. But it was nevertheless larger than any known penguin.

Fossil and present penguins

Emperor penguins can weigh 46 kilograms and reach lengths of 1.36 metres, 0.2 metres above their standing height. Another extinct penguin used to hold the height record, at around 1.5 metres tall.

P. klekowskii‘s tarsometatarsus “is the longest foot bone I’ve ever seen. This is definitely a big penguin,” says Dan Ksepka at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, he cautions that the estimate of its length is uncertain because giant penguins had skeletons “very differently proportioned than living penguins”.

Larger penguins can dive deeper and stay underwater longer than smaller ones. A giant like P. klekowski could have stayed down for 40 minutes, giving it more time to hunt fish, says Acosta Hospitaleche.

Journal reference: Comptes Rendus Palevol, DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2014.03.008

Save macaws in Peru


This video says about itself:

18 June 2014

THE MACAW PROJECT – Help saving the enigmatic macaws of Peru with the power of media

http://igg.me/at/macawmovie

A scientific research project is being implemented in the Tambopata-Candamo region of the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. Thanks to the voluntary work of researchers, we already have a repository of suitable full-HD footage that would require professional editing to produce the desired documentary. Such editing, or post-production, of the footage would include all activities carried out after filming such as editing, sound mixing, recording voiceovers and creating subtitles.

To make this project we have 2 main collaborators:

- Rainforest Expeditions (www.perunature.com) is a Peruvian eco-tourism company that operates 3 award-winning lodges in our research area.
– Filmjungle.eu Society (www.filmjungle.eu) is an NGO funded in 1996 by independent filmmakers. By now the Budapest-based Filmjungle.eu had become the most productive production unit for wildlife films and conservation documentaries in Hungary. Its award winning list of films include titles as Wolfwatching, Invisible Wildlife Photographer, Sharks in my Viewfinder and Budapest Wild.

Nowadays most scientific research [is] only available for a very narrow academic audience by publishing in scientific journals. Often the reality of the field-based research, which underpins these journal articles, is most interesting part and is worth to be communicated to a much broader audience by this kind of documentary. Public awareness is an important goal of any conservation research, and documentary films are great tools to accomplish this — not only by conveying our conservation message to many people around the world, but more crucially revealing truths based on scientific evidence.

You can find more detailed information about the research project at this site.

Read more here.

New archaeological discoveries in Peru


This video, recorded in Peru, says about itself:

Secrets of the Nazca Lines

12 November 2013

The Nazca Lines /ˈnæzkə/ are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 kilometres (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana about 400 km south of Lima. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD. The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, and lizards.

The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are zoomorphic designs of animals such as birds, fish, llamas, jaguar, monkey, or human figures. Other designs include phytomorphic shapes such as trees and flowers. The largest figures are over 200 metres (660 ft) across. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general they ascribe religious significance to them. Other theories have been summarized as follows: “The geometric ones could indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes or giant astronomical calendars.”

Due to the dry, windless, and stable climate of the plateau and its isolation, for the most part the lines have been preserved. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of recent years, the lines have been deteriorating due to an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.

Contrary to the popular belief that the lines and figures can only be seen with the aid of flight, they are visible from atop the surrounding foothills. They were first discovered by the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe, who spotted them when hiking through the foothills in 1927. He discussed them at a conference in Lima in 1939.

Paul Kosok, a historian from Long Island University, is credited as the first scholar to seriously study the Nazca Lines. In the country in 1940-41 to study ancient irrigation systems, he flew over the lines and realized that one was in the shape of a bird. Another chance helped him see how lines converged at the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. He began to study how the lines might have been created, as well as to try to determine their purpose. He was joined by Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologist to help figure out the purpose of the Nazca Lines. They proposed one of the earliest reasons for the existence of the figures: to be markers on the horizon to show where the sun and other celestial bodies rose. Archaeologists, historians and mathematicians have all struggled with determining the purpose of the lines.

Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. Scholars have theorized the Nazca people could have used simple tools and surveying equipment to construct the lines. Archaeological surveys have found wooden stakes in the ground at the end of some lines, which support this theory. One such stake was carbon-dated and was the basis for establishing the age of the design complex. The scholar Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky has reproduced the figures by using tools and technology available to the Nazca people. The National Geographic called his work “remarkable in its exactness” when compared to the actual lines. With careful planning and simple technologies, a small team of people could recreate even the largest figures within days, without any aerial assistance.

On the ground, most of the lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between 10 cm (3.9 in) and 15 cm (5.9 in). Such trenches were made by removing the reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca desert. When this gravel is removed the light-colored clay earth which is exposed in the bottom of the trench produces lines which contrast sharply in color and tone with the surrounding land surface. This sublayer contains high amounts of lime which, with the morning mist, hardens to form a protective layer that shields the lines from winds, thereby preventing erosion.

From Popular Archaeology:

Ancient Geoglyphs in Peru Predate Nazca Lines

Mon, May 05, 2014

Mound complex in Peru’s Chincha Valley features linear radiating geoglyph lines that predate the Nazca lines by three centuries

A recent study of an archaeological mound complex with astronomical orientations and geoglyph lines in southern Peru suggests that the site features a ceremonial or ritualistic center for religous and social interaction in an ancient culture that existed between 800 and 100 BCE.

Known as the Paracas culture, these ancient people constituted an Andean society known for extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management. The Chincha Valley, about 200 km south of Lima, contains early settlements of the Paracas culture. Previous surveys have indicated at least 30 major Paracas period sites or centers in the valley.

Recenty, a study team co-led by Charles Stanish of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and Department of Anthropology, University of California, surveyed and test-excavated among five previously identified mound clusters in the lower Chincha mid-valley area. Dating them based on excavated pottery to the Late Paracas period (400 – 100 BCE), they found that the mounds featured a total of 71 geoglyph lines that radiated outward from the mounds, forming what they called “ray centers”. Two of the mounds, built in a u-shape configuration, were oriented toward the location of the sun at the June solstice. Stanish and colleagues suggest that it all represents construction for specific group or societal purposes, the details of which are thus far lost to time. But the signs appear to be unmistakeable. Write Stanish, et al:

“In Chincha, linear geoglyphs, platform mounds, and walls on those ceremonial mounds mark the June solstice. If it were only lines, then one could argue that the few solstice alignments were due to chance. However, the combination of platform mounds built in orientation with the June solstice, similarly positioned wall alignments, and comparative evidence from other regions in the Andes that documents solstice marking at sites contemporary with the Paracas period, makes purposeful construction the most parsimonious explanation. Based on these data, there is little doubt that marking the June solstice is an Andean tradition that was part of the logic of ceremonial mound construction and the creation of linear geoglyphs in pre-Hispanic Chincha during Paracas times.*

Ancient geoglyphs in Peru are most commonly associated with the famous Nazca Lines located in the Nazca Desert of southern Peru. Thought to have been created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD, scholars have developed a number of theories explaining their existence, with the greatest consensus revolving around religious practices or beliefs. But with recent discoveries related to the earlier Paracas culture, the picture is becoming a bit clearer, with the construction tradition appearing to be more ancient and more widespread.

“The ritualized landscape publically attested to particular platform mound sites as focal points for social gatherings, but it was also a product of these gatherings,” write Stanish, et al. “The act of creating geoglyphs within the broader ritualized landscape—the physical piling and clearing of rocks and soil—may be a key component of individual participation in such events. The specific nature of these social events remains obscure and will be the focus of our future research.”*

The study report has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1406501111.

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Pre-Inca archaeological discoveries in Peru


This video says about itself:

8 March 2014

Archaeologists uncover human remains dating back about 3, 000 years in Peru.

From Peru this Week:

Archaeologists find 3,000-year-old graves in Cusco, Peru

19 Hours ago

By Rachel Chase

Experts say the artifacts and skeletal remains come from the pre-Inca Marcavalle culture.

Excavators working in the city of Cusco have discovered a burial site containing five individuals from the Marcavalle culture, a pre-Inca society.

Andina news agency reports that the skeletal remains date back to around 1,000 BC. The burial site, which contained two double graves and one single grave, was found on land owned by a Cusco center for juvenile rehabilitation. Three of the individuals found at the site were adults at the time of their deaths, while one was a child and the other an adolescent.

In addition to the skeletal remains, some of which were buried wearing beaded necklaces. Tools made from obsidian and camelid bones also accompanied the bodies, as did ceramic fragments bearing artistic motifs known to be associated with the Marcavalle culture.

Andina reports that investigations related to this find go back as far as 1960. No intact human remains of the Marcavalle culture had previously been found.

This most recent dig began in late 2013. Archaeologists are now planning to continue excavations in the area to learn more about the Marcavalle. According to Andina, researchers are hoping for a budget of S/. 1,000,000 to continue their work in Cusco.

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New marsupial frog species discovery in Peru


This video from Ecuador says about itself:

Marsupial Tree-Frog (Gastrotheca longipes) in the Yasuni

Dear friends,

This is a canopy species found in primary tropical moist lowland and montane tropical forest. A direct development species, its eggs are carried in a pouch on the females back. It is not present in modified habitats. The population status of this canopy species is unknown; this species faces no major threats; it is a widespread species with large areas of suitable habitat remaining. There is some localized habitat loss to selective logging and agricultural activities. It might be susceptible to chytrid infection, but this requires further investigation.

From Mongabay.com:

Scientists uncover new species of Andean marsupial frog

By: Jordanna Dulaney

March 05, 2014

The term “marsupial frog” might sound like a hoax, but, believe it or not, it’s real. Recently, herpetologists welcomed a new species, known as Gastrotheca dysprosita and described in the journal Phyllomedusa.

Unlike mammal marsupials, which typically carry their young in pouches on their torsos and are found primarily in Australia, the Gastrotheca genus of frogs, which contains 62 species, is found in the Andes region of South America and sport their pouches on their backs (also called a “dorsal brood pouch”). The female frog’s vascular tissue provides oxygen to the eggs, which she carries for three to four months until they hatch as fully-developed froglets and head off on their own.

This most recently described species owes its classification to William Duellman, of the University of Kansas. While announced in June 2013, the story of this frog’s discovery really began in 1972 when Fred G. Thompson, a malacologist from the University of Florida, collected the first specimen in the Peruvian Amazon. Thompson brought the mystery frog back to the U.S., and gave it to Duellman to identify and catalog.

The plot thickened when, in 1989, another research group both heard and caught another unidentifiable male in the same region. A second call was heard higher up the mountain, but rainy weather made it impossible to find another specimen.

“The jar containing the holotype [original specimen] of this new species has been gathering dust… I have been trying to clean up loose ends during the preparation of a monograph [a detailed study] on marsupial frogs,” Duellman wrote in his article announcing Gastrotheca dysprosita. “Thus, herein I eliminate a loose end by describing a new species.”

For his description, Duellman took meticulous measurements of the two frogs’ bodies, and compared them to known species. In life, the new species has bumpy, bright green skin with stripes of creamish and brown spots down its back and sides. Duellman describes the iris as a “reddish copper” color. The two individuals were found between 3,370 to 3,440 meters (11,000 to 11,300 feet) on the Cerro Barro Negro, a single mountain in Peru.

Little is known about the behavior patterns of Gastrotheca dysprosita since only two frogs have been found up to this point. Under the IUCN’s (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) guidelines, it’s impossible to make a guess at population size because there simply isn’t enough data.

Even the name of the frog is mysterious: dysprosita, from the Greek word dysprositos, literally means “hard to find.” The name would thus be translated as the “hard-to-find marsupial frog.”

“The name reflects the difficulty in finding this elusive frog,” Duellman states in the species description.

Citations:

Duellman, William E. “An Elusive New Species of Marsupial Frog (Anura: Hemiphractidae: Gastrotheca) from the Andes of Northern Peru.” Phyllomedusa 12.3-11 (2013.

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