Inca empire of llamas and maize

This video is called THE NEW LLAMA SONG !!!!!

From New Scientist:

Llama muck and maize revolution drove Inca success

00:01 22 May 2011 by Fred Pearce

How could the inhospitable Andean highlands of Peru nurture the great Inca civilisation that dominated South America for hundreds of years? The answer, unearthed in lake sediments high up in the Peruvian Andes, seems to be llama muck.

South America’s most important crop is maize. Its cultivation is what allowed people to stop being hunter-gatherers and settle as farmers instead. If crops were good and grain silos bulged, they had time for mining metals, developing culture and fighting wars with their neighbours.

The switch to agriculture happened at different times in different places. Analysis of mud cores from the bed of a small lake close to the mountain fortress city of Ollantaytambo, Peru, reveals that, there at least, it happened very fast, some 2700 years ago.

Led by Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute of Andean Studies in Lima, Peru, the study shows that maize pollen suddenly appeared in lake-bed mud 2700 years ago. Until then it seems that people mostly ate wild foods such as quinoa. Though popular in modern health-food shops, quinoa seeds could not have sustained a large and thriving civilisation. Maize could.

Llama power

But what triggered the sudden emergence of this crop 3350 metres up in the Andes? A temporarily warmer climate probably helped, says Chepstow-Lusty – but so did llama dung. His mud cores revealed that around the same time as maize pollen became dominant, the remains of oribatid mites also increased. These soil-dwelling bugs eat animal excrement, including llama dung.

Llamas are indigenous and had been domesticated by around 3500 years ago. But around 2700 years ago, the extra mite remains in the mud suggest that the hills were suddenly alive with large numbers of llamas: a bonanza of llama excrement would have fuelled the mite population boom. The dung would have been spread on fields as fertiliser, then leached into the lake.

The droppings would have made all the difference to the advance of civilisation, says Chepstow-Lusty. “The widespread shift to agriculture and societal development was only possible with this extra ingredient – organic fertilisers on a vast scale.”

Graham Thiele, an Andean agriculture specialist at the International Potato Centre in Lima, agrees, and says the llama-droppings study is a good one. He points out that maize could be stored for much longer than other local foods, and also provided much more energy. “It could be stored, and traded and moved over long distances,” he says, making it ideal for sustaining an empire.

It took almost 2 millennia for the Incas, the greatest of the maize-based societies, to reach their peak. But without the muck-and-maize revolution, says Chepstow-Lusty, they would never have got there.

Amazonian farmers discovered how to manipulate wild rice so the plants could provide more food 4,000 years ago, long before Europeans colonized America, archaeologists have discovered: here.

A week before Peruvians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, nearly 20,000 members of the Aymara native ethnic group occupied the city of Puno: here.

Leftwinger Humala claims victory in Peru election – video: here. And here. And here.

Peru halts mine project after protesters shot: here.

People living along the coast of Peru were eating popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously reported and before ceramic pottery was used there, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences co-authored by Dolores Piperno, curator of New World archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and emeritus staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: here.

To decode the mystery of corn, Smithsonian scientists recreated Earth as it was 10,000 years ago: here.

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25 thoughts on “Inca empire of llamas and maize

  1. Mining scrapped following killings

    Peru: The government has reportedly scrapped plans to allow a Canadian firm to mine silver in the southern highlands following violence that left six dead and 30 wounded.

    The casualties occured on Friday when police fired on mostly indigenous protesters opposed to the project.

    Police launched their bloody crackdown as opponents tried to take over an airport near the city of Juliaco in Puno.

    The area has been paralysed since May 9 by roadblocks set up to resist the mine and a hydroelectric project on the Inambari river.


  2. Humala aims to aid impoverished

    PERU: Left-wing President Ollanta Humala has pledged to make “the one in three Peruvians still mired in poverty” the priority of his government.

    In an address to the nation on Thursday Mr Humala said windfall taxes on mining profits would be used to fund an ambitious social programme, including introducing a state pension, raising the minimum wage and building 50 new hospitals.

    Free pre-schools, university scholarships and investment in public transport also featured in the plan.

    “There can be no democracy where misery and social asymmetry exist,” he said.


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