The Oldest American Necklace from Jiskairumoko, Peru

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 necklaceThe 4,000 year old Jiskairumoko 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.”

3 thoughts on “The Oldest American Necklace from Jiskairumoko, Peru

  1. This is a great discover! I hope that this jewelry return to Peru and not only see by the web or photo :-D. Congratulations to the archeologist’s team.

  2. Congratulations to the archaeology team. A firm step into the future guided by the achievements of the past. We need pictures. Spectacular objects that add to the story of man’s achievement belong in full view. Share this remarkable find. Many thanks to BBC for bringing this news and the tidbit photograph.

  3. Interesting finding, the gold nuggets are nine, this number is important because it refers to the 9 levels of infraworld (hell)/heaven, the infraworld has 5 floors, the deeper floor is tha last one, the the stair goes up again. This is why the nugget number five is larger and has a rock on it. About this I am very sure, this nine levels apears in all America.

    I belive that the funtion of the Necklace is like a Mala in the Indu tradition or like a rosary for Catolics. At the time of the Necklace the society was very chamanic oriented, no like today that we are all scientist, so this kind of craft is oriented for espiritual practice.

    Thanks for your work and good luck.

    Pedro de Eguiluz

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