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Maya Cities

Maya Ruins on the Riviera Maya

The Maya civilization is what archaeologists call the many different societies of the Peten peninsula in Mexico and adjacent places. The Maya picked some pretty places, which makes visiting them a pleasure...

Maya Cities
Archaeology Spotlight10

Chachapoya Culture

Monday April 14, 2014

The people who built the 12th century "fortress" at Kuelap in the Andes mountains of Peru are called by ethnohistorians and archaeologists the Chachapoya.

Chachapoyan Sarcophagi at Karajia, Peru
Chachapoyan Sarcophagi at Karajia, Peru. Photo by Jorge Gobbi

The Chachapoya were a loose confederation of settlements, perched on high ridges of the Andes mountains. Central to the extensive trade network between the Amazon jungle and the central Andes, the Chachapoya gained a bad rep as a violent and warlike culture from the Inca and the Spanish who wrote about them.

Lactase Persistence in Southern Africa

Friday April 11, 2014

Two upcoming articles in the journal Current Biology describe newly identified migration patterns in Later Stone Age southern Africa, arising from recent findings about lactase persistence.

18th century engraving of Khoe herders protecting sheep and cattle at night.
18th century engraving of Khoe herders protecting sheep and cattle at night. Plate taken from Historic Farms of South Africa, by Dorothea Fairbridge, published by Oxford University Press (London, 1931). Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Image

The Khoisan, a collective term for Khoe cattle and sheep herders and San hunter-gatherers who speak one of the click languages, are often assumed to have been isolated throughout prehistory. What the new studies show is that, like so many things in life, our human story of the Later Stone Age is southern Africa is far more complex than that; and directly connected to the history of domestication of cattle and sheep.

Breton G, Schlebusch Carina M, Lombard M, Sjödin P, Soodyall H, and Jakobsson M. 2014. Lactase Persistence Alleles Reveal Partial East African Ancestry of Southern African Khoe Pastoralists. Current Biology (in press). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.041

Macholdt E, Lede V, Barbieri C, Mpoloka Sununguko W, Chen H, Slatkin M, Pakendorf B, and Stoneking M. 2014. Tracing Pastoralist Migrations to Southern Africa with Lactase Persistence Alleles. Current Biology (in press). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.027

The Chachapoya Ceremonial Center of Kuelap

Monday April 7, 2014

Last week, I posted a fairly blistering review of a video from the PBS series, Secrets of the Dead. I promised I would follow up with some scientific reports on the various sites mentioned: today, we look at Kuelap.

External Wall at Kuelap
External Wall at Kuelap. Justin Lambert / The Image Bank / Getty Images

In Carthage's Lost Warriors, much was made of these enormous walls which surround Kuelap, evidence, so the video said, that the Chachapoya had help building this fortress.

Turns out, this wall may have had defensive purposes, but it was also part cemetery....

Secrets of the Dead: Carthage's Lost Warriors

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Don't get me wrong: I love the PBS series Secrets of the Dead. It gives us all fresh insight into alternative ideas of archaeological and historical reality that, well, I guess we need. "Carthage's Lost Warriors" is alternative, alrighty.

Secrets of the Dead
Secrets of the Dead logo. WNET/PBS

In Carthage's Lost Warriors, Secrets of the Dead offers us a fabulous tale of a band of Carthagenians, Celts and Majorcans who cross the Atlantic (I'm really not sure when this is supposed to have happened, but the press release says 1,500 years before Columbus), land on the Brazilian coast, travel up the Amazon through the jungle and climb the Peruvian Andes.

Along the way, of course, they influence various cultures of South America with their wily European ways. We all need a good laugh now and then.

It's baloney. Fun baloney, and I'm going to get hate mail for saying so, but baloney none the less.

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