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Four-Thousand-Year-Old Gold Artifacts from the Lake Titicaca Basin, Southern Peru

Mark Aldenderfer, Nathan M. Craig, Robert J. Speakman and Rachel Popelka-Filcoff
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 105, No. 13 (Apr. 1, 2008), pp. 5002-5005
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25461542
Page Count: 4
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Four-Thousand-Year-Old Gold Artifacts from the Lake Titicaca Basin, Southern Peru
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Abstract

Artifacts of cold-hammered native gold have been discovered in a secure and undisturbed Terminal Archaic burial context at Jiskairumoko, a multicomponent Late Archaic-Early Formative period site in the southwestern Lake Titicaca basin, Peru. The burial dates to 3776 to 3690 carbon-14 years before the present (2155 to 1936 calendar years B.C.), making this the earliest worked gold recovered to date not only from the Andes, but from the Americas as well. This discovery lends support to the hypothesis that the earliest metalworking in the Andes was experimentation with native gold. The presence of gold in a society of low-level food producers undergoing social and economic transformations coincident with the onset of sedentary life is an indicator of possible early social inequality and aggrandizing behavior and further shows that hereditary elites and a societal capacity to create significant agricultural surpluses are not requisite for the emergence of metalworking traditions.

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