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Plants in Transit Communities: Circulating Tubers and Maize in the Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2022

Sophie Reilly*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Andrew P. Roddick
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
*
(sophiereilly2024@u.northwestern.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

Archaeologists working in the Late Formative Lake Titicaca Basin have identified several “transit communities”—villages that benefited from long-distance exchange. Some scholars suggest that such places played a key role in the development of the Middle Horizon city of Tiwanaku. In this article, we explore the movement of plant goods into transit communities during both the Late Formative (300 BC–AD 500) and Middle Horizon (AD 600–1100) periods. After presenting the current understanding of transit communities, we summarize previous work on both local plants, including tubers and quinoa, and the presence of maize. We then report on a recent microbotanical study of ceramics recovered from excavations at Late Formative Challapata (in the eastern basin) and a burial from the Middle Horizon occupation at Chiripa (in the southern basin). For the first time we identify lowland tubers in the Lake Titicaca Basin, including yuca, sweet potato, and arrowroot. These findings reveal the critical importance of microbotanical analyses for tracing regional connections and foodways in emergent Middle Horizon worlds, as well as the need for more complex interpretive models for things/plants-in-motion.

Los arqueólogos que trabajan en la cuenca del Lago Titicaca en el Formativo Tardío han identificado una serie de “comunidades de tránsito.” Algunos investigadores sugieren que tales lugares jugaron un papel clave en el desarrollo de la ciudad de Tiwanaku durante el horizonte medio. En este artículo, exploramos el movimiento de bienes vegetales a las comunidades de tránsito durante el Formativo Tardío (300 aC-500 dC) y el horizonte medio (600-1100 dC). Después de presentar los conocimientos actuales sobre las comunidades de tránsito, resumimos el trabajo previo de ambas plantas locales, incluidos los tubérculos y la quinua, y la presencia del maíz. Luego informamos sobre un reciente estudio microbotánico de cerámica recuperada de excavaciones en Challapata del Formativo Tardío (cuenca oriental) y un entierro de la ocupación del Horizonte Medio en Chiripa (cuenca sur). Por primera vez hemos identificado tubérculos de tierras bajas en la cuenca del lago Titicaca, incluyendo yuca, camote, y arrurruz. Estos hallazgos revelan la importancia crítica de los análisis microbotánicos para rastrear conexiones regionales y vías alimenticias en los mundos emergentes del Horizonte Medio, y la necesidad de modelos interpretativos más complejos para las cosas / plantas-en-movimiento.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology

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References

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