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, 106 (41), 17280-3

Direct Evidence of 1,900 Years of Indigenous Silver Production in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Southern Peru

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Direct Evidence of 1,900 Years of Indigenous Silver Production in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Southern Peru

Carol A Schultze et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

Archaeological excavations at a U-shaped pyramid in the northern Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru have documented a continuous 5-m-deep stratigraphic sequence of metalworking remains. The sequence begins in the first millennium AD and ends in the Spanish Colonial period ca. AD 1600. The earliest dates associated with silver production are 1960 + or - 40 BP (2-sigma cal. 40 BC to AD 120) and 1870 + or - 40 BP (2-sigma cal. AD 60 to 240) representing the oldest known silver smelting in South America. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analysis of production debris indicate a complex, multistage, high temperature technology for producing silver throughout the archaeological sequence. These data hold significant theoretical implications including the following: (i) silver production occurred before the development of the first southern Andean state of Tiwanaku, (ii) the location and process of silverworking remained consistent for 1,500 years even though political control of the area cycled between expansionist states and smaller chiefly polities, and (iii) that U-shaped structures were the location of ceremonial, residential, and industrial activities.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Location of the Lake Titicaca Basin on the continent of South America with an inset showing the project location within the country of Peru. Numbered location on the Peru map correspond to the following places mentioned in the text; 1: Lake Titicaca, 2: Lima, Peru and the archaeological site Ancón. North arrows in all figures indicate true north with the magnetic declination in Puno, Peru at 2° west of north.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
The Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru and Bolivia. The Puno Bay research area and the archaeological sites Tiwanaku and Pukara are located.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
The site area of Huajje showing the adjoining island complex of Isla Esteves, the excavation area, and rough outlines of the U-shaped structure. The mound and surrounding settlement has been badly damaged in recent years from modern construction and looting.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
The Huajje excavation Unit 1 west wall profile, relative ceramic chronology, radiocarbon (C14), pottery thermoluminescence (TL) dates and scanning electron microscope (SEM) smelting assemblage sample locations. C14-calibrated dates are 2-sigma/95% probability calculations provided by Beta Analytic. TL dates are shown with standard deviation 1-sigma error terms. TL dates represent minimum ages due to signal fading of constituent feldspars.

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