Chilean desert cemetery tells tale of ancient trade specialists | Science News

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Chilean desert cemetery tells tale of ancient trade specialists

Contrary to previous theories, powerful Tiwanaku empire did not rule there

7:00am, August 24, 2015

TRADER’S CUP  An ancient desert cemetery in Chile contains members of an elite group of locals and outsiders who handled the distribution of goods from a regional trading network, a new study suggests. One of these trade specialists, a foreigner, was buried with these gold drinking vessels, one decorated with a human face.

An ancient cemetery in northern Chile’s Atacama Desert is helping to rewrite the region’s past. This burial ground housed the remains of a far-flung, well-connected group of players in what was one of South America’s earliest trade networks, researchers say.

New findings from the roughly 1,500-year-old Larache cemetery support the idea that trade bloomed among societies in the Andes Mountains — but without the direct involvement of the powerful Tiwanaku empire, say bioarchaeologist Christina Torres-Rouff of the University of California, Merced and her colleagues. Tiwanaku society was based in what’s now western Bolivia, but expanded its trading in South America between around 1,500 and 1,000 years ago. Maya civilization flourished during that time in Central America.

Decades-old suspicions that the Larache cemetery, part of an Atacama settlement in an oasis area, was reserved for Tiwanaku emissaries or traders don’t hold up, Torres

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