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Concept: Bolivia


Developing countries are increasingly decentralizing forest governance by granting indigenous groups and other local communities formal legal title to land. However, the effects of titling on forest cover are unclear. Rigorous analyses of titling campaigns are rare, and related theoretical and empirical research suggests that they could either stem or spur forest damage. We analyze such a campaign in the Peruvian Amazon, where more than 1,200 indigenous communities comprising some 11 million ha have been titled since the mid-1970s. We use community-level longitudinal data derived from high-resolution satellite images to estimate the effect of titling between 2002 and 2005 on contemporaneous forest clearing and disturbance. Our results indicate that titling reduces clearing by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds in a 2-y window spanning the year title is awarded and the year afterward. These results suggest that awarding formal land titles to local communities can advance forest conservation.

Concepts: South America, United Nations, Bolivia, Amazon Basin, Indigenous peoples, Title, Peru, Amazon Rainforest


High-elevation environments above 2500 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.) were among the planet’s last frontiers of human colonization. Research on the speed and tempo of this colonization process is active and holds implications for understanding rates of genetic, physiological and cultural adaptation in our species. Permanent occupation of high-elevation environments in the Andes Mountains of South America tentatively began with hunter-gatherers around 9 ka according to current archaeological estimates, though the timing is currently debated. Recent observations on the archaeological site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa (8.0-6.5 ka), located at 3800 m.a.s.l. in the Andean Altiplano, offer an opportunity to independently test hypotheses for early permanent use of the region. This study observes low oxygen (δ(18)O) and high carbon (δ(13)C) isotope values in human bone, long travel distances to low-elevation zones, variable age and sex structure in the human population and an absence of non-local lithic materials. These independent lines of evidence converge to support a model of permanent occupation of high elevations and refute logistical and seasonal use models. The results constitute the strongest empirical support to date for permanent human occupation of the Andean highlands by hunter-gatherers before 7 ka.

Concepts: Scientific method, South America, Bolivia, Andes, Peru, Altiplano, Lake Titicaca, Aconcagua


The Inca Empire is claimed to have driven massive population movements in western South America, and to have spread Quechua, the most widely-spoken language family of the indigenous Americas. A test-case is the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, reported as a focal point of Inca population displacements. Chachapoyas also spans the environmental, cultural and demographic divides between Amazonia and the Andes, and stands along the lowest-altitude corridor from the rainforest to the Pacific coast. Following a sampling strategy informed by linguistic data, we collected 119 samples, analysed for full mtDNA genomes and Y-chromosome STRs. We report a high indigenous component, which stands apart from the network of intense genetic exchange in the core central zone of Andean civilization, and is also distinct from neighbouring populations. This unique genetic profile challenges the routine assumption of large-scale population relocations by the Incas. Furthermore, speakers of Chachapoyas Quechua are found to share no particular genetic similarity or gene-flow with Quechua speakers elsewhere, suggesting that here the language spread primarily by cultural diffusion, not migration. Our results demonstrate how population genetics, when fully guided by the archaeological, historical and linguistic records, can inform multiple disciplines within anthropology.

Concepts: South America, Bolivia, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Inca Empire, Quechua, Inca


Pacopampa, a ceremonial complex in Peru’s northern highlands, reveals early evidence of trauma in the Middle to Late Formative Period coinciding with the emergence of social stratification in the area. We examine the prevalence of trauma in human remains found at the site and present evidence of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of individuals who lived during the early stages of Andean civilization.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, South America, Bolivia, Andes, Lima, Peru, Arequipa, Quechua


Examination of three frozen bodies, a 13-y-old girl and a girl and boy aged 4 to 5 y, separately entombed near the Andean summit of Volcán Llullaillaco, Argentina, sheds new light on human sacrifice as a central part of the Imperial Inca capacocha rite, described by chroniclers writing after the Spanish conquest. The high-resolution diachronic data presented here, obtained directly from scalp hair, implies escalating coca and alcohol ingestion in the lead-up to death. These data, combined with archaeological and radiological evidence, deepen our understanding of the circumstances and context of final placement on the mountain top. We argue that the individuals were treated differently according to their age, status, and ritual role. Finally, we relate our findings to questions of consent, coercion, and/or compliance, and the controversial issues of ideological justification and strategies of social control and political legitimation pursued by the expansionist Inca state before European contact.

Concepts: Bolivia, Argentina, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Spanish Empire, Human sacrifice, Child sacrifice


The Altiplano region of the South American Andes is marked by an inhospitable climate to which the autochthonous human populations adapted and then developed great ancient civilizations, such as the Tiwanaku culture and the Inca Empire. Since pre-Columbian times, different rulers established themselves around the Titicaca and Poopo Lakes. By the time of the arrival of Spaniards, Aymara and Quechua languages were predominant on the Altiplano under the rule of the Incas, although the occurrence of other spoken languages, such as Puquina and Uruquilla, suggests the existence of different ethnic groups in this region. In this study, we focused on the pre-Columbian history of the autochthonous Altiplano populations, particularly the Uros ethnic group, which claims to directly descend from the first settlers of the Andes, and some linguists suggest they might otherwise be related to Arawak speaking groups from the Amazon. Using phylogeographic, population structure and spatial genetic analyses of Y-chromosome and mtDNA data, we inferred the genetic relationships among Uros populations (Los Uros from Peru, Uru-Chipaya and Uru-Poopo from Bolivia), and compared their haplotype profiles with eight Aymara, nine Quechua and two Arawak (Machiguenga and Yanesha) speaking populations from Peru and Bolivia. Our results indicated that Uros populations stand out among the Altiplano populations, while appearing more closely related to the Aymara and Quechua from Lake Titicaca and surrounding regions than to the Amazon Arawaks. Moreover, the Uros populations from Peru and Bolivia are genetically differentiated from each other, indicating a high heterogeneity in this ethnic group. Finally, our results support the distinctive ancestry for the Uros populations of Peru and Bolivia, which are likely derived from ancient Andean lineages that were partially replaced during more recent farming expansion events and the establishment of complex civilizations in the Andes.

Concepts: South America, Bolivia, Andes, Peru, Inca Empire, Altiplano, Lake Titicaca, Aymara language


Indigenous people worldwide suffer from higher rates of morbidity and mortality than neighboring populations. In addition to having limited access to public health infrastructure, indigenous people may also have priorities and health perceptions that deter them from seeking adequate modern healthcare. Here we propose that living in a harsh and unpredictable environment reduces motivation to pursue deliberate, costly action to improve health outcomes. We assess whether variation in Health Locus of Control (HLC), a psychological construct designed to capture self-efficacy with respect to health, explains variation in treatment uptake behavior among Tsimane Amerindians (N = 690; age range: 40-89 years; 55.8% female; data collection: 2008-2012), a high mortality and morbidity indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon, Beni Department. Comparisons with two industrialized populations in Japan (Miyagi prefecture; e0 = 76.6 years) and the United Kingdom (Caerphilly county borough; e0 = 81.2 years) confirm that Tsimane (e0 = 54.1 years) have a more externalized HLC. Multilevel level models were used to investigate whether HLC predicts treatment uptake, and mediates the relationship between modernization and treatment uptake. External HLC scores were predictive of treatment outcomes: Powerful others scores were positively associated with probability of receiving modern treatment (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.33), while Chance scores were negatively associated with probability of receiving modern treatment (adjusted OR = 0.76). We found no effects, however, of Internal HLC or educational capital on treatment uptake. Overall, our findings indicate that health-related decision-making is influenced more by a psychological orientation affecting self-efficacy, shaped in part by perceptions of environmental unpredictability and harshness, than by limited knowledge, education or other indicators of modernization.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Demography, Motivation, Bolivia, Indigenous peoples, Locus of control, Indigenous peoples of the Americas


Rapid 21st-century climate change may lead to large population decreases and extinction in tropical montane cloud forest species in the Andes. While prior research has focused on species migrations per se, ecotones may respond to different environmental factors than species. Even if species can migrate in response to climate change, if ecotones do not they can function as hard barriers to species migrations, making ecotone migrations central to understanding species persistence under scenarios of climate change. We examined a 42-year span of aerial photographs and high resolution satellite imagery to calculate migration rates of timberline-the grassland-forest ecotone-inside and outside of protected areas in the high Peruvian Andes. We found that timberline in protected areas was more likely to migrate upward in elevation than in areas with frequent cattle grazing and fire. However, rates in both protected (0.24 m yr(-1)) and unprotected (0.05 m yr(-1)) areas are only 0.5-2.3% of the rates needed to stay in equilibrium with projected climate by 2100. These ecotone migration rates are 12.5 to 110 times slower than the observed species migration rates within the same forest, suggesting a barrier to migration for mid- and high-elevation species. We anticipate that the ecotone will be a hard barrier to migration under future climate change, leading to drastic population and biodiversity losses in the region unless intensive management steps are taken.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Forest, Bolivia, Andes, Peru, Aerial photography, Arequipa, Quechua


In the Southern Hemisphere, evidence for preindustrial atmospheric pollution is restricted to a few geological archives of low temporal resolution that record trace element deposition originating from past mining and metallurgical operations in South America. Therefore, the timing and the spatial impact of these activities on the past atmosphere remain poorly constrained. Here we present an annually resolved ice core record (A.D. 793-1989) from the high-altitude drilling site of Quelccaya (Peru) that archives preindustrial and industrial variations in trace elements. During the precolonial period (i.e., pre-A.D. 1532), the deposition of trace elements was mainly dominated by the fallout of aeolian dust and of ash from occasional volcanic eruptions, indicating that metallurgic production during the Inca Empire (A.D. 1438-1532) had a negligible impact on the South American atmosphere. In contrast, a widespread anthropogenic signal is evident after around A.D. 1540, which corresponds with the beginning of colonial mining and metallurgy in Peru and Bolivia, ∼240 y before the Industrial Revolution. This shift was due to a major technological transition for silver extraction in South America (A.D. 1572), from lead-based smelting to mercury amalgamation, which precipitated a massive increase in mining activities. However, deposition of toxic trace metals during the Colonial era was still several factors lower than 20th century pollution that was unprecedented over the entirety of human history.

Concepts: Industrial Revolution, Pacific Ocean, Metallurgy, South America, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Quechua


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.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, South America, Bolivia, Chile, Andes, Peru, Altiplano, Lake Titicaca