Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oldest Gold Artifact in Western Hemishere Found

ScienceDaily reports that a University of Arizona team in Peru has discovered a 4,000 year old gold and turquoise necklace, the oldest such gold jewlery piece ever found in the Americas, more thean 600 years older than the previous record holder.

"A team of scientists led by an archaeologist from The University of Arizona has unearthed what is, to date, the oldest collection gold artifacts found in the Americas.

The finding suggests that even early groups with limited resources recognized the value of status symbols. Mark Aldenderfer, a professor of anthropology at the UA, and his team excavated a site in the Peruvian Andes of South America, near Lake Titicaca. The site, Jiskairumoko, is located in a drainage basin where groups of hunters and gatherers were beginning to make the transition to a more settled existence.

Dates for the Archaic period, when Jiskairumoko was inhabited by these people, are as early as 5,400 years ago and ending about 4,000 years ago."

What is interesting is that the piece was found in a relatively small village, whereas the find of such jewelry suggests a more sophisticated larger society capable of generating agricultural surpluses allowing for the development of the specialized skills necessary for jewelry manufacture. This particular piece appears to have been made by hammering the gold until flat enough to be rolled into small nine cylindrical shaped beads, which were interspersed with the turquoise. Both materials are not available locally, suggesting a lengthy trip outside the region or a long distance trade network established from a fairly early date.

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