The Nasca and Their Dear Creatures – Molecular Genetic Analysis of Pre-Columbian Camelid Bones and Textiles
In the excavation sites of the Palpa valley most of the animal remains are South American camels. By morphological methods the distinction between the four types, the two wild species, vicuña and guanaco, and the two domesticated species, llama and alpaca, is nearly impossible. This study, as part of the subproject ‘Palaeogenetics/Human Ecology’, was concerned with the molecular genetic species identification and determination of genetic variability of the skeletal remains of camels as well as textile material, and should contribute to clarify the strategy of subsistence as well as possible trade relations with highland populations of the (pre-) historic populations of the Nasca–Palpa region.
Analysis systems for mitochondrial DNA, chromosomal short tandem repeats and phenotypic associated single nucleotide polymorphisms were developed. The results of the mitochondrial DNA were used to determine the specie of every sample.
In bones the portion of llamas and guanacos and in textiles vicuñas and alpacas are dominant. It is assumed that llamas and guanacos were used for daily meat supply or as pack animals in case of the llamas. The predominant use of vicuñas and alpacas seems to have been in textile production. A change of the use over time could be observed. Trade between highland and lowland can be proven for the entire settlement period and it increased at the same time with the occurrence of unstable environmental conditions. As a whole this increasing trade and possible specialization at different settlements are a reference to the existence of stratified societies.
KeywordsSkeletal Remains Subsistence Strategy Excavation Site Pack Animal Domestication History
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