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New Thoughts on Chile’s Ancient Desert Structures

Thursday, November 8, 2018

ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE—Live Science reports that Catherine Perlès of the Université Paris Nanterre and Lautaro Nuñez of Chile’s Universidad Católica del Norte reevaluated two archaeological sites located less than one mile apart from each other in the Atacama Desert. One of the two sites, a ceremonial complex last excavated in 2015, flourished between 1200 and 500 B.C., and features massive stone monuments, infant burials, mortars for preparing food and pigments, and artifacts made of gold and materials imported from the Amazon and Pacific regions. The older of the two sites, constructed some 5,000 years ago, was originally thought to have been a settlement when it was excavated in 1985. But Perlès and Nuñez say its structures, with vertical stones and capping slabs, are similar to those at the nearby ceremonial complex and probably served a similar purpose. Many of its mortars and grinding stones were also marked with red pigment, they add. The researchers suggest the sites were built by small groups of people who found enough water and food to survive in the desert, and came together to build the sites, perhaps for religious purposes. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Atacama’s Decaying Mummies.”

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