A complex farming society developed in Uruguay around 4,800 to 4,200 years ago, much earlier that previously thought, Iriarte and his colleagues report in this weeks Nature (December 2). Researchers had assumed that the large rivers system called the La Plata Basin was inhabited by simple groups of hunters and gatherers for much of the pre-Hispanic era.
Iriarte and coauthors excavated an extensive mound complex, called Los Ajos, in the wetlands of southeastern Uruguay. They found evidence of a circular community of households arranged around a central public plaza. Paleobotanical analyses of preserved starch grains and phytoliths –tiny plant fossils- show that Los Ajos farmers adopted the earliest cultivars known in southern South America, including maize, squash, beans and tubers.
Over time, around 3,000 years ago, the mound complex architectural plan of Los Ajos exhibited sophisticated levels of engineering, planning, and cooperation revealing an earlier, new, and independent architectural tradition previously unknown from this region of southern South America. The formal and compact layout of the central part of the site (Inner Precinct) consists of seven imposing platform mounds surrounding a central plaza area.
José Iriarte | EurekAlert!
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