South America


Book review: Frontier Life in Ancient Peru: the archaeology of Cerro la Cruz

By Melissa A Vogel University Press of Florida, £64.50 ISBN 978-0813037967   This is the first English-language work on the Casma, a pre-Inca culture that has received little academic attention to-date – something that Melissa Vogel sets out to redress. Focusing on the northernmost part of the polity, Vogel discusses a pivotal period, AD 900-1300, […]


Alva at Huaca Rajada

The discovery of an intact Moche royal tomb was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. A gang of impoverished local looters entered one of three pyramids at Huaca Rajada, Sipan, a major Moche site near the Peruvian coast.


Peru: Pachacamac

Why were the bodies of a dozen newborn babies placed around the edge of a 1,000-year-old tomb?


Cutting-edge research

Archaeologists studying 31 obsidian knives from Cantona, a pre-Hispanic site in Mexico, have discovered minute traces of 2,000-year-old human blood, skin, and hair on the blades – the first direct evidence of such tools being used for human sacrifice. Previously researchers had relied on cut marks on the bones of presumed victims to reconstruct how […]


Book Review: Violence, Ritual, and the Wari Empire

Tiffiny A. Tung University Press of Florida, £64.50 ISBN 978-0813037677 Between AD 600-1000, the Wari Empire represented one of the first politically centralised states in the New World. This study reveals the biological and social impact of the military aggression on which this power was founded, with groundbreaking DNA and osteological data shedding light on […]


Peru: Peruvian priestess

The discovery of a 13th-century priestess at a ritual site in northern Peru is forcing a reassessment of the role of women in Lambayeque culture. The 25- to 30-year-old woman was buried at Chotuna-Chornancap, adorned with elaborate jewellery, ceramic offerings, and gold and silver ritual objects proclaiming her elite status. ‘This has revolutionised our thinking,’ […]


Columbia: Ciudad Perdida

The lost city of a lost civilisation – yet today it is one of the most important Pre-Hispanic sites in South America.


Peru: Ancient Peruvian Popcorn

The oldest corncobs unearthed in South America have been found in Peru. Dating to 6,700 years ago – at least 2,000 years older than previous finds of cobs – they were eaten by people who were yet to enjoy the convenience of ceramic pottery. According to a report in The Proceedings of the National Academy […]


Mexico: Potted History

We know, from hieroglyphic references and illustrations, that the ancient Maya and their gods enjoyed a smoke. But physical evidence is rare. Now residue from a 1,300-year-old pot has provided the first traces of tobacco to be found in a Mayan container. The small clay vessel comes from the Mirador Basin in Southern Campeche, Mexico, […]

Mexico: Moche monkey business

A gold monkey-head pendant has been returned to Peru thanks to the intervention of the country’s ambassador Luis Valdivieso. The artefact, which had been housed by the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, was made by the Moche people. Renowned for their elaborate gold work, the Moche inhabited the north coast of Peru in […]

Mexico: Mexican pyramid’s first offering

Archaeologists investigating the core of the Pyramid of the Sun, at Teotihuacan on the outskirts of Mexico City, have discovered the ceremonial offering placed at the heart of Mexico’s tallest pyramid, deposited when construction first began in about AD 50. Laid on the pyramid’s rubble base, the offerings included obsidian knives and projectile heads, 11 […]

Patagonia: first people of Patagonia

Patagonia at the end of the Ice Age was not a pleasant place to live: it was a time of great climatic and environmental fluctuations, and, despite the thaw, much colder than today. Yet, into these uninviting conditions at the southern tip of the Americas, came the first early human societies. How did they survive such a bleak environment? Ariel Frank believes three sites in Patagonia have the answers.

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