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Archaeologists have been using luminescence to date pottery in South America since the late 1970s, inspired by early success in northern Chile. However, luminescence dates have not been rigorously compared to independent dating methods, which this paper’s goal. First, we present a compilation of 94 paired 14C and luminescence dates from the southern Andes, which reveals discrepancies across a range of contexts and ages. Second, we compare two Bayesian models of sets of 14C and thermoluminescence (TL) dates from three ceramic styles in the Azapa Valley, Chile, and the Inca occupation of Mendoza, Argentina. We find that only the 14C models produce results that agree with expectations based on independent data. Third, we present results from a pilot study in Mendoza that dated 6 sherds with 3 luminescence methods each and closely associated 14C dates. The reasons for disagreement between methods remain unclear, but Andean sediments with low and unstable luminescence sensitivity seem to be an important factor. Even though some luminescence ages are accurate, the clear trend of inconsistent results leads us to recommend that archaeologists use 14C rather than luminescence dates to build cultural chronologies.
The Late Formative period immediately precedes the emergence of Tiwanaku, one of the earliest South American states, yet it is one of the most poorly understood periods in the southern Lake Titicaca Basin (Bolivia). In this article, we refine the ceramic chronology of this period with large sets of dates from eight sites, focusing on temporal inflection points in decorated ceramic styles. These points, estimated here by Bayesian models, index specific moments of change: (1) cal AD 120 (60–170, 95% probability): the first deposition of Kalasasaya red-rimmed and zonally incised styles; (2) cal AD 240 (190–340, 95% probability): a tentative estimate of the final deposition of Kalasasaya zonally incised vessels; (3) cal AD 420 (380–470, 95% probability): the final deposition of Kalasasaya red-rimmed vessels; and (4) cal AD 590 (500–660, 95% probability): the first deposition of Tiwanaku Redwares. These four modeled boundaries anchor an updated Late Formative chronology, which includes the Initial Late Formative phase, a newly identified decorative hiatus between the Middle and Late Formative periods. The models place Qeya and transitional vessels between inflection points 3 and 4 based on regionally consistent stratigraphic sequences. This more precise chronology will enable researchers to explore the trajectories of other contemporary shifts during this crucial period in Lake Titicaca Basin's prehistory.
Because the 14C calibration curves IntCal and SHCal are based on data from temperate latitudes, it remains unclear which curve is more suitable for archaeological and paleoenvironmental records from tropical South America. A review of climate dynamics reveals a significant influx of Northern Hemisphere air masses and moisture over a substantial part of the continent during the South American Summer Monsoon (SASM). Areas affected by the SASM receive unknown amounts of input from both hemispheres, where an argument could be made for either curve. Until localized tree-ring data can resolve this, we suggest using a mixed calibration curve, which accounts for inputs from both hemispheres, as a third calibration option. We present a calibration example from a crucial period of environmental and cultural change in the southern Lake Titicaca. Given our current lack of data on past ∆14C variation in South America, our calibrations and chronologies will likely change in the future. We hope this paper spurs new research into this topic and encourages researchers to make an informed and explicit choice of which curve to use, which is particularly relevant in research on past human–environmental relationships.
The chronology of the Inca Empire has traditionally relied on ethnohistoric dates, which suggest that a northern expansion into modern Ecuador began in AD 1463 and a southern expansion into modern Argentina began in AD 1471. We test the validity of these dates with two Bayesian models, which show that the ethnohistoric dates are incorrect and that the southern expansion began before the northern one. The first model of seven dates shows that the site of Chamical, Ecuador, was first occupied cal AD 1410–1480 (95% probability) and has a high probability of being built prior to the ethnohistoric date. The second is an outlier model of 26 14C dates and 19 thermoluminescence (TL) dates from 10 sites along the empire’s southeastern limit in northwestern Mendoza, Argentina. Here, the Inca occupation began cal AD 1350–1440 (95% probability), also earlier than the ethnohistoric date. The model also suggests that the Inca occupation of Mendoza lasted 70–230 yr (95% probability), longer than previously thought, which calls for new perspectives on the timing and nature of Inca conquests and relationships with local groups. Based on these results, we argue it is time to abandon the traditional chronology in favor of Inca chronologies based on Bayesian models.
A community is an active assemblage of human and non-human elements bound together by interactions. Archaeologies of communities shed light on sets of overlapping and geographically emplaced assemblages of individuals, practices, spaces, buildings, objects, animals and landscapes. This article presents an archaeology of communities based a remarkably well preserved Late Formative (ad 1–500) patio group at Khonkho Wankane, Bolivia. Excavation data provide a high-resolution chronology and document two varieties of assemblages: (1) those that played a greater role in biologically and socially reproducing the community, such as daily food and tool production; and (2) those that played a greater role in its transformation, such as gatherings, work parties and construction projects. In the patio group, intimate meetings took place in small, private spaces where incense was burned. Larger gatherings took place in an outdoor space where painted Kalasasaya small jars and bowls were active elements in interactions between residents and visitors. These events most likely involved work parties that contributed to the physical and social construction of the community. Assemblages at multiple scales built a diverse Late Formative community, which played a principal role in regional interaction networks. Within a few generations of residents leaving their homes in Khonkho, local and regional interactions generated the emergence of a state at Tiwanaku.
The development of sociopolitical complexity at Tiwanaku around AD 500 was one of the major episodes of social change in the history of the Lake Titicaca Basin. It was the result of poorly understood processes that took place at a series of ceremonial centers in the preceding centuries. The history of Tiwanaku during this time is especially unclear, because the only radiocarbon dates are from excavations whose details were never completely published. Despite this, there is consensus that Tiwanaku was founded around 300 BC. A re-evaluation of the archaeological context of each of these dates shows many of them to be unreliable. Two Bayesian models from independent excavations agree that Tiwanaku was in fact founded centuries later, most likely around AD 110 (50-170, 1σ). This has important implications for widely used monolith and ceramic sequences, as well as understanding the rise of Tiwanaku and other archaic states.
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