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Archaeologists uncover ritual landscape connected to ancient Andean cults



Archaeologists conducting a study in the Carangas region of highland Bolivia have discovered a ritual landscape connected with the Andean cults of wak’a (sacred mountains, tutelary hills, and mummified ancestors).

In a study published in the journal Antiquity, the researchers identified 135 hilltop sites, which are associated with agricultural production areas by a variable number of concentric walls on terraces.

At each location, the team found large quantities of pre-Hispanic ceramic fragments from local styles typical of the Late Intermediate and Late Periods (AD 1250–1600), along with some regional styles linked to the southern expansion of the Incas.

Most of the ceramic fragments are bowls, plates and small jars, indicating their use in commensal and ritual practices. The evidence suggests that the sites were used as ceremonial spaces known as wak’a, a practice which emerged during Late Intermediate Period.

This corresponds with accounts by Spanish clerics and chroniclers of the Colonial Period from around AD 1535–1800, such as that of the chronicler, Guaman Poma de Ayala.

At Waskiri, near the Lauca River and the Bolivian-Chilean border, the study discovered a large circular construction measuring 140m in diameter.

The site has a perimeter ring comprising of 39 adjoining enclosures, each with a surface area between 106 and 144m2. These enclose a plaza of approximately 1ha, which is scattered with abundant ceramic fragments ascribed to the Late Intermediate and Late Periods.

Archaeologists theorise that the perimeter walls may reflect the Incan ceque system, suggesting that the Incas replicated the symbolic structure of Cuzco in the regions they colonised.

The site is visually and spatially associated with the principal sacred mountains, multiple walled circular constructions, and burial towers adorned with patterns imitating Incan fabrics.

It is possible, that this structure was first referenced in the chronicles of the priest, Bartolomé Álvarez, who travelled through the Carangas region during the 1580s.

Álvarez heard of the existence of a “large circular building”, in which the Indigenous leaders of the region (curacas and caciques), met to perform ceremonies for the Sun during the month of June—the Inti Raymi.

According to the paper authors: “This ceremonial centre and the ritual landscape in which Waskiri is situated provides rich material for further study of the pre-Hispanic history of this part of the Andes—an area that has been generally understudied. Further research will allow investigators to test these initial hypotheses and interpretations.”


Header Image Credit : Antiquity

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Clusters of ancient qanats discovered in Diyala




An archaeological survey has identified three clusters of ancient qanats in the Diyala Province of Iraq.

A qanat, also known as a kārīz, is a system for transporting water from an aquifer or water well over long distances in hot dry climates without losing water to evaporation.

Qanats use a sequence of vertical shafts resembling wells, linked by a gently inclined tunnel that serves as a conduit for channelling water. Qanats efficiently transport substantial volumes of underground water to the surface without requiring pumps.

The water naturally flows downhill by gravity, with the endpoint positioned at a lower level than the origin. When the qanat is still below ground, the water is drawn to the surface via water wells or animal driven Persian wells.

Image Credit : State Board of Antiquities & Heritage

Some Qanats are divided into an underground network of smaller canals known as kariz, functioning similarly to qanats by staying beneath the surface to prevent contamination and evaporation. In certain instances, water from a qanat is stored in a reservoir, usually with nighttime flow reserved for daytime usage.

The technology for qanat’s first emerged in ancient Iran around 3,000-years-ago and slowly spread westward and eastward.

A recent survey within the Diyala Province has discovered three clusters of qanats stretching between the areas of Jalulaa and Kortaba. Initial studies dates the clusters to around AD 1000, a period known as the “Iranian Intermezzo”, when parts of the region were governed by a number of minor Iranian emirates.

The first cluster consists of 25 wells on a linear alignment connected to an adjacent 10 metre deep water channel. The second cluster also has 25 wells and is connected to a 13 km long hand dug channel, while the third cluster consists of 9 wells connected to water canals dug on both sides.

Header Image Credit : State Board of Antiquities & Heritage

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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16,800-year-old Palaeolithic dwelling found in La Garma cave




Archaeologists have discovered a 16,800-year-old Palaeolithic dwelling in the La Garma cave complex, located in the municipality of Ribamontán al Monte in Spain’s Cantabria province.

The La Garma cave complex is a parietal art-bearing paleoanthropological cave system on the southern side of the La Garma Hill.

The cave complex is noted for one of the best preserved floors from the Palaeolithic period, containing more than 4,000 fossils and more than 500 graphical units.

A project led by Pablo Arias and Roberto Ontañón from the University of Cantabria has recently announced the discovery of a Palaeolithic dwelling within the cave system, described as “one of the best preserved Palaeolithic dwellings in the world.”

The dwelling is an oval space and is delimited by an alignment of stone blocks and stalagmites that supported a fixed structure of sticks and skins leaning against the cave wall. The total area of the space is around 5 square metres that centred on a camp fire.

Archaeologists also found vestiges of various daily activities associated with Magdalenian hunters and gatherers at the dwelling, including evidence of stone manufacturing, bone and antler instruments, and the working of fur.

In total, over 4,614 objects have been documented, such as dear, horse and bison bones, 600 pieces of flint, needles and a protoharpoon, shells of marine mollusks, as well as numerous pendants worn by the cave dwelling inhabitants.

Additionally, the researchers also found a number of decorated bones, including a remarkable pierced aurochs phalanx engraved with a depiction of both the animal itself and a human face—a distinctive artefact unique to the European Palaeolithic era.

Due to the national importance of the discovery, the team used innovative non-intrusive techniques in their study of the dwelling. This includes continuous tomography of the soils, 3D cartography, the molecular and genetic analysis of soils and Palaeolithic objects, mass spectrometry, and hyperspectral imaging.

Header Image Credit : University of Cantabria

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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