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Wooden Canoe Burial Discovered in Northern Patagonia

Friday, August 26, 2022

Argentina Wampo BurialTEMUCO, CHILE—Live Science reports that Alberto Pérez of Temuco Catholic University and his colleagues have discovered the remains of a young Mapuche woman who was buried in a wampo, or ceremonial canoe, between 850 and 1,000 years ago at the Newen Antug archaeological site, which is located on what is now private land in western Argentina. Some scholars had previously suggested that this burial practice was used only after Spanish colonization, but Pérez argues that the wood rots rapidly in South America’s climate, leaving little direct evidence. “The previous evidence was important and was based on ethnographic data, but the evidence was indirect,” he explained. Only fragments of the canoe, made by hollowing out a single tree trunk with fire, remain in this grave. Analysis of the fragments indicates that they came from a single Chilean cedar. The woman’s body was set on a bed of freshwater clam shells, and its position, with the arms set over the torso and raised head and feet, indicate that she had been placed in a concave structure with thicker walls at its ends, such as the bow and stern of a canoe. A pottery jug decorated with white glaze and red geometric patterns had been placed by the woman’s head for her final journey. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about another recent discovery in Argentina, go to "Around the World: Argentina."

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