April 23, 2008
Peruvian Site Yields a Golden Discovery
By Bower, Bruce
ARCHAEOLOGY Archaeologists may not be fashion divas, but they dig antique jewelry. Consider the discovery of 4,000-year-old gold and stone beads in southeastern Peru. These crafted items, the oldest examples of worked gold in the Americas by about 600 years, were strung together into a necklace, say Mark Aldenderfer of the University of Arizona in Tucson and his colleagues.
Radiocarbon measurements of burned wood found near the jaw provided the age estimate.
Earlier research at the site indicated that a hunter-gatherer group lived there seasonally, probably from spring into summer. At the time, these people were shifting from a nomadic to a sedentary, village life, according to Aldenderfer's team.
The finding challenges the traditional view that techniques for making high-status, gold objects emerged only in complex societies capable of generating and storing large food surpluses. The ancient folk at Jiskairumoko inhabited a simpler setting, storing relatively little food. Nonetheless, they fashioned gold into a necklace that signaled the social prestige of its wearer, the researchers conclude in the April 1 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. - BRUCE BOWER
ALL THAT GLITTERS
investigators strung gold and stone beads found at a 4,000-year- old site in Peru to re-create an ancient necklace.
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