Mark Aldenderfer, from the anthropology department at the University of Arizona in Tucson, has just published a paper with several other authors which made the cover of the PNAS. The cover features a gold and turquoise necklace found from excavations of burials in Jiskairumoko, a site near Lake Titicaca in Peru. The significance of this find is that it is the oldest known gold object made in the Americas and shows us that status symbols like jewelery began before the appearance of more complex societies in the Andes.
So, just how old is it? Radiocarbon dating for the burials indicate the artifact is 3,776 to 3,690 old and was alongside the jawbone of an elderly female adult skull in a burial pit next to primitive pithouses. During this time hunter-gatherers occupied the area. Markings on the necklace indicate that gold nuggets had been flattened with a stone hammer. They were skillfully crafted around a hard cylindrical object to form tubular beads.
Mark Aldenferfer interprets the find as an, “emerging social role for gold beyond simple decoration.” He told BBC News:
“The gold reflects a universal tendency for human beings to strive for prestige and status.
The gold reflects that process in people living in a simple society which is in the process of becoming more complex.
[and were] not at all different to today… This reflects a lot more than just a lovely object… This is a major piece of how people lived their lives and how they competed for status in the past.”
The paper was published yesterday. Here’s the title and link, “Four-thousand-year-old gold artifacts from the Lake Titicaca basin, southern Peru.”