OPEN Scientific reports | 1 Feb 2017
A Eichler, G Gramlich, T Kellerhals, L Tobler, T Rehren and M Schwikowski
The importance of metallurgy for social and economic development is indisputable. Although copper (Cu) was essential for the wealth of pre- and post-colonial societies in the Andes, the onset of extensive Cu metallurgy in South America is still debated. Comprehensive archaeological findings point to first sophisticated Cu metallurgy during the Moche culture ~200-800 AD, whereas peat-bog records from southern South America suggest earliest pollution potentially from Cu smelting as far back as ~2000 BC. Here we present a 6500-years Cu emission history for the Andean Altiplano, based on ice-core records from Illimani glacier in Bolivia, providing the first complete history of large-scale Cu smelting activities in South America. We find earliest anthropogenic Cu pollution during the Early Horizon period ~700-50 BC, and attribute the onset of intensified Cu smelting in South America to the activities of the central Andean Chiripa and Chavin cultures ~2700 years ago. This study provides for the first time substantial evidence for extensive Cu metallurgy already during these early cultures.
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