South America

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Pre-Hispanic flood-management in the Pampa de Mocan

For thousands of years, areas along the north coast of Peru have been subject to huge flooding as a result of El Niño, a periodic warming in the atmosphere of the Pacific Ocean, which causes torrential rainfall in the eastern Pacific. El Niño events are unpredictable, occurring anywhere from every 6-7 years to every 10-20 years, and are generally seen as a disruptive force, but recent archaeological work in the Pampa de Mocan, a coastal desert plain in northern Peru, indicates that this was not always the case.

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Mining for ochre in ancient Mexico

Divers exploring the now-submerged caves of Quintana Roo in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula have uncovered evidence for red ochre mining between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, the oldest known example of the exploitation of this mineral resource in the Americas.

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Tambo Viejo

Excavating remarkable Inca rituals After the Acari Valley was absorbed by the Inca Empire, Tambo Viejo was founded to oversee its inhabitants. This imperial imposition seemingly resembled many others in the region, but excavation has exposed architectural and ritual oddities. Lidio M Valdez reveals what makes the site unique. The fully fledged Inca Empire controlled […]

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Return to Huaca El Pueblo

Discovering Peruvian pyramid tombs Recent excavations at Huaca El Pueblo, a mud-brick pyramid erected by the Moche, have revealed three remarkable burials dating to the 4th century AD. As well as providing a poignant glimpse of these individuals’ lives, the rites that consigned them to the earth offer clues to help solve the enduring mystery […]

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Mapping the Maya

The deeds of royal dynasties presiding over Maya city-states in northern Guatemala can still be followed on ornate inscriptions raised in their name. But just how large were their dominions? Tom Garrison tells us how recent survey and follow-up fieldwork is revolutionising our knowledge of Maya state power.

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The Palpa figures

Survey near the town of Palpa, Peru, has revealed a wealth of geoglyphs. Are they older than their celebrated neighbours at Nasca? And were they aimed at a very different audience?

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Pachacamac

When the Spanish conquistador Hernando Pizarro arrived at Pachacamac, Peru, in January 1533, he had before him one of the jewels of the Inca Empire. ‘We arrived,’ he wrote, ‘in this city thathat seems very old because most of the buildings are in ruins.’ Archaeological research at the site has since vindicated his judgement.

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Travel: Mérida

Seeking out Maya masterpieces in Yucatán Head off the beaten track in Mexico and you might be rewarded with some magnificent Maya archaeology, as Tom St John Gray reveals. The Spanish have built a city here and called it Mérida, because of the strangeness and greatness of its structures. In 1566, Diego de Landa – […]

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Palace of the Maya Time Lords

Discovering two royal tombs at El Perú-Waka’ Excavations at the Maya city of Waka’ in Guatemala revealed a stone gallery buried within the palace acropolis. Inside its rooms were relics that told the extraordinary story of its construction, destruction, and reuse as a chamber for subterranean fire rituals. David Freidel, Griselda Pérez Robles, and Juan […]

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Circles of mystery: Strange ancient earthworks in Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest

Hundreds of enigmatic earthworks lay hidden for millennia beneath what was thought to be virgin rainforest. Who built them, and why? In searching for answers, Jennifer Watling discovered how ancient human activity holds the clues for future forest-management. The discovery in recent years of mysterious circular earthworks in western Amazonia is one of the most […]

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Travel: The Yucatán

Richard Hodges visits sites in the shadow of Chichén Itzá. Hotels, at their best, resemble oases in a desert. Mayaland – nestling in the shadow of Chichén Itzá, one of the New World’s Seven Wonders – is just such a place. Its civility and graciousness are rooted in the Carnegie expeditions to this Maya metropolis, […]

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Lapa do Santo: Decapitation and ritual in ‘the Saint’s rock shelter’

Inside Lapa do Santo, excavations are revealing the complex burial practices of an early Archaic community. André Strauss tells CWA about the grisly finds. Body mutilation, decapitation, defleshing, and possible cannibalism: these chilling descriptions seem more appropriate for a serial killer’s to-do list than for an archaeological project report. But as queasy as they might […]

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