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Keywords:

  • cargo animals;
  • Lamini tribe;
  • osteometry;
  • osteopathologies;
  • Southern Andes

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The Middle Formative Cemetery of Topater 1 (ca. 500 bc–100 ad), located in the oasis of Calama, Northern Chile, presents an unusually diverse array and quantity of funerary offerings, distributed among the graves of more than 200 individuals. Among the offerings are the remains of several mummified camelids and camelid skeletal elements, primarily distal extremities and artefacts made from the bones of these animals. Taking only the first skeletonised anterior and posterior phalanges of Topater 1 camelids, we conducted univariate and multivariate osteometric analyses in order to assign the sample to the appropriate taxonomic groups. At the same time, we described all osteopathologies registered for the extremities in the collection. Of the 45 phalanges measured, 30 were of similar or greater size than contemporary reference llamas. Fourteen of the 164 samples of bone extremities presented pathologies, most of them first phalanges. These abnormalities included different degrees of exostosis and, less commonly, eburnation and lipping. Considering both lines of evidence, we conclude that the llamas sacrificed at the Topater 1 cemetery correspond to, at least, two very large and robust cargo llama morphotypes. When living, these animals would have transported goods as part of the intense exchange activity that was taking place during this period in the region extending from the Pacific coast to Northwest Argentina and perhaps even beyond. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Currently, the Lamini tribe includes four species and two genera that are found exclusively on the South American subcontinent: Lama guanicoe, Muller 1776 (guanaco), Lama glama, Linnaeus 1758 (llama), Vicugna vicugna, Molina 1782 (vicuña) and Vicugna pacos, Linnaeus 1758 (alpaca) (Wheeler, 1995; McKenna & Bell, 1997; Marín et al., 2007). L. guanicoe and V. vicugna correspond to wild species, whereas L. glama and V. pacos are domesticated. Recent genetic studies (Kadwell et al., 2001; Marín et al., 2007) have shown that the guanaco is the wild ancestor of the llama and that the alpaca is the descendant of the vicuña. Both domestic forms play a crucial role in the economy and cosmovision of the Andean world, mainly because of the variety of raw materials that they provide (meat, wool, skin, connective tissue), and also owing to their use as cargo animals, which made them a key element in the long-distance exchanges taking place among the different ecozones of central and southern South America (Núñez & Dillehay, 1979; Dillehay & Núñez, 1988; Berenguer, 2004). At the same time, domestic camelids, especially llamas, played a central role in many Andean religious ceremonies, which are described in great detail in ethnohistoric sources (Cobo, 1956[1653]; Guaman Poma, 1980[1613]).

Traditional perspectives have proposed the Central Peruvian Andes as the centre of domestication of the tribe in South America, a process that may have begun around 6000 bp, but that was clearly underway by 4000–3000 bp (Wing, 1972, 1975, 1978; Kent, 1986; Mengoni-Goñalons & Yacobaccio, 2006). Studies conducted in caves in the Peruvian Altiplano in the 1970s and 1980s affirm the increasing intensification of camelid exploitation during the Holocene, along with mortality profiles dominated by newborns, incisors with morphologies similar to that of the alpaca and osteometric evidence compatible with domestic camelids (Wing, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1978; Wheeler Pires-Ferreira et al., 1976, 1977; Kent, 1986; Wheeler, 1984, 1995, among others). Under this scenario, domestic camelid forms would have gradually reached areas further from the central Andes in comparatively later times (Nuñez, 1974; Stahl, 1988). However, investigations conducted primarily in the north of Chile and Northwest Argentina have suggested that multiple centres of domestication existed. These studies, which focused on Late Archaic and Early Formative deposits (5000–2500 bp) contemporaneous with the Central Andean ones, showed an intensification of camelid exploitation, an initial variability in the size of Lama bones that would later lead to bones with osteometrics compatible with the llama, bone extremities with pathologies, camelid fibres interpreted as belonging to llamas, corrals, and rock art containing representations of herders (Yacobaccio et al., 1997; Yacobaccio, 2003; Gallardo & Yacobaccio, 2005; Mengoni-Goñalons & Yacobaccio, 2006; Cartajena et al., 2007; Reigadas, 2008; Aschero et al., 2012; Cartajena et al., 2012, among others). This process of parallel domestication unfolded within an increasingly complex social context linked to the reduction of mobility and the presence of ceremonial structures and foreign prestige goods, among other things (Yacobaccio, 2001; Nuñez et al., 2006a, 2006b).

Despite the important role that cargo-bearing camelids played in this process, it is only in recent times that indicators have been proposed to detect them in the area's archaeological record (Izeta & Cortés, 2006; Yacobaccio, 2003, 2010; Cartajena et al., 2012, among others). In this paper, we describe the osteological remains of camelids found as mortuary offerings in the Middle Formative cemetery of Topater 1 (ca. 500 bc–100 ad), located in the oasis of Calama in Chile's Norte Grande. Using osteometric and palaeopathological analysis, we discuss the ability to detect the presence of domestic camelids in the record, particularly cargo-bearing llamas.

The Topater 1 site

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

In the early 20th century, the Americanist Max Uhle (1913) excavated an extensive Late Intermediate cemetery (ca. 1100–1400 ad), known as Dupont, located to the west of the oasis of Calama on the banks of the Loa River. The presence of cargo rigging, ropes and foreign products led him to conclude the ancient people who had used the cemetery had kept several cargo llamas for the long-distance transport of goods. This group would have been caravaneers, a group with special skills that emerged in earlier times.

Topater 1 is one of the earliest cemeteries found near the oasis and contains the best-preserved bodies and offerings. It is situated on a desert plain southeast of Calama (Figure 1) and has a predominant Middle Formative component (500 bc–100 ad) and two consistent radiocarbon dates of 410 to 360 bc (Beta 259693, calibrated to 2 sigmas with 95% probability; 2340 ± 40 bp) and 360 to 270 bc (Beta 322289, calibrated to 2 sigmas with 95% probability; 2120 ± 30 bp). Several non-local objects and products deposited as offerings provide proof that exchanges within the region and beyond were occurring during that time. This evidence includes different textiles, leather cords and objects, bone instruments and seashells from the Pacific coast, brightly coloured feathers from the highlands and eastern Bolivian, and polished black ceramics from Northwest Argentina. Although the site lacks equipment associated with camelid cargo trains, such as that found in later times, the offerings do include a variety of mummified camelid parts, several skeletonised and/or mummified distal extremities and artefacts made from the bones of these animals (Thomas et al., 1995; Cartajena & Concha, 1997).

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Figure 1. Location of Topater 1 cemetery and prehistoric routes in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile.

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Topater 1 was excavated in the 1980s, but the findings were never published in monograph form. The existing material includes partial inventories housed at the Museum of the Calama Cultural Corporation, reports on some artefacts and ecofacts, and an interpretive essay with vague contextual references (Thomas et al., 1995; Cartajena & Concha, 1997; Cases, 1999; Agüero & Cases, 2004). Our current knowledge is brief and partial, given the poor storage conditions post-excavation and the poor state of conservation of the artefacts. We do know, however, that the site was excavated in a grid of 9 × 25 blocks, 5 m2 each, from which the investigators recovered 61 funerary bundles and the remains of secondary burials representing 155 individuals (Thomas et al., 1995). According to our study of the inventory, the camelid bones considered in this study come from virtually all of the excavated areas (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Distribution of camelid bones in the Topater 1 cemetery.

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Cartajena & Concha (1997) conducted a preliminary analysis of the archeofaunal remains of Topater 1 in which they indicate the presence of llama based primarily on the osteometric analysis performed with the second phalanges [minimum number of elements (MNE): 32]. The researchers suggested the existence of a llama–alpaca hybrid (warizo) (MNE: 2) and an alpaca pelvis on the basis of morphological attributes. Unfortunately, the authors did not include the measurements obtained from the archaeological remains or indicate the origin of the materials, but combined the results from Topater with those of a nearby archaeological site (Cartajena & Concha, 1997). Cartajena & Concha (1997) did not mention the presence of pathologies in the sampled studied.

Material and methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The total sample includes 164 bone specimens from anterior and posterior autopodia (Table 1). All mummified extremities were excluded from the analysis (N = 7) as the bones could not be measured. All other bone remains (tarsals, carpals, metacarpals, metatarsals, first and second phalanges) of adult individuals were measured according to von den Driesch (1976), Kent (1986), L'Heureux (2008) and Cartajena (2008) by using a digital caliper with a rated accuracy of 0.01 mm and were obtained by a single observer. The specimens with pathologies were measured partially, excluding sections with anomalies that could not be properly measured. The phalanges were classified as anterior or posterior following Kent (1986) and Cartajena (2003), as they were varied in size. With the archaeological measurements and contemporary skeletons of reference (L. glama, L. guanicoe cacsilensis and V. pacos) taken from Izeta et al. (2009, Tables 1 and 2) and Cartajena (2003), a univariate statistical analysis was conducted (scatter plots) as well as a multivariate exploratory analysis [of principal components analysis (PCA)] in order to establish groupings within the sample analysed (Menegaz et al., 1989; Cartajena et al., 2007; Izeta, 2007). Given the absence of sexual dimorphism, we worked with the assumption that the different sizes of the bone remains corresponded to different species of the and Lamini tribe. Mengoni-Goñalons & Yacobaccio (2006) have suggested the following increasing size gradient of the tribe: vicuña–alpaca–Andean guanaco–llama; however, it should be taken into account that the cultural management of wild taxa produces domestic morphotypes of different sizes (Uerpmann & Uerpmann, 2002, cited in Cartajena et al., 2007), which means that the domestic forms could only be taxonomically assigned with certainty when they were the same size or larger than their respective wild ancestors.

Table 1. Topater 1 bone sample analysed
 NISPMNEMNI
  1. NISP, number of identified specimens; MNE, minimum number of elements; MNI, minimum number of individuals.

Carpals11113
Metacarpal19126
Anterior Phalanx 129298
Anterior Phalanx 220205
Anterior Phalanx 310103
Tarsals772
Metatarsal1685
Posterior Phalanx 120206
Posterior Phalanx 214144
Posterior Phalanx 3442
Juvenile Metapodial111
Juvenile Phalanx 1441
Juvenile Phalanx 2111
Phalanx 1 Indet.221
Phalanx 2 Indet.111
Phalanx 3 Indet.331
Sesamoid bones221
Total1641498

The description of pathologies registered in the sample is based on Baker & Brothwell (1980), de Cupere et al. (2000), Fabiš (2004) and de France (2009). In terms of intensity, the pathologies were classified as mild, moderate and severe, following de France (2009).

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Osteometry

Because of the lack of contemporary comparative skeletal remains, here we shall only present the results obtained for the anterior and posterior first phalanges (Table 2). These units have been used systematically in archaeology and palaeontology to distinguish among different forms of the tribe (Menegaz et al., 1989; Cartajena et al., 2007; Izeta, 2007). The distribution of cases according to maximum length (Gl) allowed the Topater 1 sample to be divided into two broad groups on the basis of size, with a set of particularly large bone remains for each phalanx. A smaller group of anterior first phalanges also emerged, consisting of the bones of a single individual (specimens M6/C5(22) and M6/C5(23), Figure 3 and Table 2).

Table 2. Measurements (mm) of the anterior and posterior first phalanx of Topater 1
CodeElementSideaTaxaGlSDSDDBpBFpDpDFpBdGDdSDd
  1. Gl, greatest length; SD, smallest breadth of diaphysis; SDD, smallest depth of the diaphysis; Bp, breath of the proximal surface; BFp, breath of proximal articular surface; Dp, depth of proximal surface; DFp, depth of proximal articular surface; Bd, breath of the distal surface; GDd, greatest depth of the distal surface; Ant, anterior; Post, posterior.

  2. a

    Corresponds to the position of the phalanx in each limb.

M6/C5(22)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftCamelidae Ind.63.6513.0410.5420.8820.2420.0618.3217.515.7212.69
M6/C5(23)Ant. Phalanx 1RightCamelidae Ind.64.8612.79.9721.7220.6219.8118.9917.3915.9712.8
M6/C5(27)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama78.4813.68With tissue23.6522.9121.320.7319.6918.314.47
J8/C7(34)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama sp.72.0313.811.1523.2923.1521.6820.3219.1718.0415.3
J8/C7(35)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama sp.70.7513.5911.5722.5621.4620.9519.9618.6918.1214.56
J8/C7(36)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama sp.71.9413.4211.8223.9422.982120.7519.1318.0914.96
J6/C1(61)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama74.213.1512.0124.4722.6821.0520.5919.9818.8614.78
O6/C1(96)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama77.7313.1111.7522.8721.5920.9619.5917.6317.3614.13
H7/C1(97)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama91.3815.9713.7227.826.0726.3324.0622.0120.2316.41
H7/C1(98)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama91.6915.714.0327.7525.9625.9725.221.6620.9715.9
I5/C1(115)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama73.8513.1911.7823.8721.8120.8920.3519.2318.1815.01
I5/C1(116)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glamaFractured12.7711.5223.7722.2720.7119.83FracturedFracturedFractured
I5/C1(127)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama guanicoe?68.8912.3610.5821.720.8719.2818.3217.2816.2113.12
I7(139)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama sp.73.3313.0811.7923.0122.420.3119.5618.917.9613.56
I7(140)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama sp.72.0212.2411.3822.1621.4120.719.1518.7117.2313.39
M6-N6(146)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama76.6513.4512.124.1122.9621.4720.3619.316.0115.01
M6-N6(147)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama76.1513.2512.41PathologyPathologyPathologyPathology19.0416.9415.11
I8(166)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama73.3512.9112.5623.9422.5420.1719.6818.5616.1814.62
I8(167)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama73.3612.4912.6923.122.2520.7419.3918.7318.314.33
I9(180)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama77.2113.5711.7224.322.7921.220.4119.9519.2114.15
I9(181)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama78.7713.3611.9624.8324.0221.2520.4520.1918.3714.68
E5 (182)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama77.5912.5111.8622.8321.5320.9820.1418.8619.8415.11
E5 (183)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama78.4512.8511.682422.6520.9619.1418.6519.4415.22
H8/C1 (197)Ant. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama88.6414.3512.8126.0725.3422.5822.2121.2417.716.68
H8/C1 (198)Ant. Phalanx 1RightLama glama87.8514.7213.425.7324.7122.5621.4220.6419.8316.21
J6(63)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama sp.Fractured12.4310.38FracturedFracturedFracturedFractured17.2315.4312.66
J7/C1(65)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama guanicoe?64.5312.139.5320.2518.7718.2517.317.2215.4112.66
J7/C1(66)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama guanicoe?62.6612.1710.3819.8119.1818.8917.316.5315.313.05
O6(67)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama66.91Pathology10.821.0319.9419.2218.4516.4214.7713.02
O6(68)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama68.9511.910.6920.9620.221918.0116.0815.2313.18
J5/C2(74)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama guanicoe?64.9912.2210.2221.3121.1218.6517.2716.2215.5113.78
M6/C2(79)Post. Phalanx 1No det.Lama guanicoe?63.0912.3610.9219.9419.7919.5517.9317.0914.9812.5
J8(84)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama71.6413.5512.3224.222.6120.32019.4516.6714.22
J8(85)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama69.9113.7412.2823.8122.8221.5219.919.0516.4714.25
I5/C1(117)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama guanicoe?60.6111.439.3319.6219.6217.316.2615.6514.3412.01
I5/C1(118)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama guanicoe?60.711.729.6719.8119.317.6716.4815.8113.8512.21
I5/C1(119)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama67.4212.2710.1921.6520.8719.5618.0817.3516.6613.51
I5/C1(125)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama66.2411.9810.1320.7418.2318.2317.4417.3916.413.32
H6(171)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama67.8512.8511.8622.8721.9920.4819.7818.2316.113.93
E5 (184)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama68.4312.5110.2521.9121.9119.0217.6216.9915.7314.41
E5 (185)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama68.9611.8810.4221.8521.2819.0118.1917.0617.4314.55
E5 (189)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama67.3112.2310.6121.1720.4619.7217.9916.5516.1114.02
H8/C1 (199)Post. Phalanx 1LeftLama glama78.8112.9111.324.3724.2220.9520.3819.6717.7115.84
H8/C1 (200)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama76.9613.3411.7225.8523.6221.0220.2619.118.0515.71
K5(223)Post. Phalanx 1RightLama glama75.3112.6111.1122.6121.7120.6519.6217.8116.2814.51
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Figure 3. Distribution of archaeological specimens by Gl measurements. (a) Anterior first phalanx; (b) posterior first phalanx.

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The scatter plots with archaeological and contemporary values for Gl and BFp display the same behaviour (Figure 4), as four elements can be distinguished, corresponding to two individuals in each case, with sizes notably larger than those of the reference llamas. These specimens definitely correspond to L. glama. In the anterior first phalanx [Figure 4(a)], an intermediate group also emerges, which is compatible with both Andean guanacos and llamas of reference. Nevertheless, the pieces located at the lower end of this variability range could be assigned to guanaco, whereas those located at the upper end appear to correspond to a second domestic morphotype smaller in size than the one mentioned previously. The specimens located in the middle sector of this subset could correspond to either llamas or guanacos. One can also observe how pieces M6/C5(22) and M6/C5(23) are separate from the intermediate group, but are associated with the reference material of V. pacos, particularly in regard to maximum length. Lastly, we observed that the archaeological specimens tended to be more robust than the ones used for comparison (i.e. breath of proximal articular surface). The Wilcoxon test, however, do not show that the BFp measures for both groups (archaeological and contemporary pieces, considering only L. guanicoe and L. glama) are statistically different (Z = −1.778, p = 0.075). The posterior first phalanx displays relatively similar behaviour, but in this case, there is a clearer demarcation between the wild and domestic camelids as there are no marked zones of overlap between the contemporary guanaco and llama reference samples [Figure 4(b)]. Statistically, there are no significant differences between the proximal widths (BFp) of the reference samples and those of the archaeological specimens (Z = 1.275, p = 0.202).

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Figure 4. Scatter plots of Gl and BFp (mm). (a) Anterior first phalanx; (b) posterior first phalanx. Numbers as in Table 2.

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Lastly, the analysis of principal components using Gl, BFp, DFp and GDd (Figure 5) obtains similar results. In the case of the anterior first phalanx [Figure 5(a)], the first component, which explains 94.04% of the variance, allows the separation of the three species of camelids used as a reference (L. guanicoe, L. glama and V. pacos), enabling the Topater 1 archaeological specimens to be adequately differentiated. The ancient bone remains are significantly different from the contemporary reference specimens in the second component (which explains 3.24% of the variance), which in our judgement is due to the greater robustness of the archaeological specimens. Also within the anterior first phalanx, pieces M6/C5(22) and M6/C5(23) are larger, but are particularly dissimilar to the reference V. pacos. The PCA using the posterior first phalanx [Figure 5(b)] allows the separation of L. guanicoe and L. glama in the first component (which explains 92.98% of the variance), whereas the second (which explains 3.77% of the variance) distinguishes the archaeological specimens from the contemporary ones.

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Figure 5. First phalanx principal component analysis. (a) Anterior phalanx; (b) posterior phalanx. The numbers correspond to those in Table 2.

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Palaeopathologies

A total of 14 specimens displayed osteopathologies (9.39% of all elements) (Table 3). Among these, seven were registered on the first phalanx (50% of all elements with pathologies), three on the second phalanx (21.42%), two on the third phalanx (14.28%), one on the sesamoid (7.14%) and one on a distal metacarpal (7.14%). As the offerings consisted of articulated limbs, it was possible to observe several bones with pathologies from the same individual. In this case, bone abnormalities were recorded for three front limbs and two back limbs (17.85% of all limbs, N = 28). The systematic presence of disease in metapodials and phalanges is in line with a recent study of domestic bovine cattle, in which 88% of the 130 000 animals studied presented lesions on the feet (Bartosiewicz et al., 1997). Archaeologically, de France (2009) reported that 10 out of 18 goat, camelid and bovid bone elements with evident pathologies ascribed to Peruvian and Bolivian colonial contexts corresponded to phalanx (55.5%). Park (2001, cited in de France, 2009) mentioned that among a universe of 70 camelid specimens with pathologies found in Tiwanaku contexts in the Titicaca basin, 24 correspond to the first and second phalanges (34.28%). Finally, Cartajena et al. (2012), starting from Late Archaic and Early Formative sites in northern Chile, showed that three of five bones with pathologies correspond to the first and second phalanges.

Table 3. Summary of pathologies present in the Topater 1 sample analysed
CodeBonePathologyDegree
  1. Phal, phalanx; A, anterior; P, posterior; Ses, sesamoid; Ds, distal; Mtc, metacarpal; m, mild; i, intermediate; s, severe.

M6/C5(27)Phal 1 ADorsal and medial exostosisi
O6(67)Phal 1 PDorsal and medial exostosism
O6(68)Phal 1 POblique lateral sulcus on the diaphysis associated with exostosisi
O6(71)Phal 2 PLateral exostosis on the diaphysism
H7/C1(97)Phal 1 AExostosis on the proximal and distal articular surfacei
H7/C1(98)Phal 1 AExostosis on the proximal and distal articular surfacei
H7/C1(99)Phal 2 ALateral exostosis on the diaphysism
H7/C1(100)Phal 2 ALateral exostosis on the diaphysism
H7/C1(101)Phal 3 AExostosis on the proximal articular surfacei
H7/C1(102)Phal 3 AExostosis on the proximal articular surfacei
H7/C1(103)SesExostosis on both sides of the proximal articular surfacei
I5/C1(130)Phal 1 PExostosis on the entire length of the diaphysiss
M6-N6(147)Phal 1 ALateral exostosis on the proximal and distal articular surfacei
M6-N6(151)Ds MtcLipping and eburnation on the articular condylem

The pathologies observed in the sample are mainly of two types: (i) exostoses, defined as abnormal formations of new tissue on the external part of a bone; and (ii) lipping, or the extension of the articular surface through the formation of excess bone (osteophytes) (de Cupere et al., 2000; de France, 2009). The main pathological formation of the Topater bones is exostosis (Table 3), which is displayed in 13 cases, mainly phalanx (N = 12). This pathology is manifested mainly in mild and moderate forms, reflected by the slight (either intensive or extensive) development of bone around the shaft (Figure 6) and joints (proximal and distal), mainly on the dorsal and lateral sides (Figures 9 and 10). In five cases, the effect of the exostosis on the bone shaft was localised; one of these, O6(68), displays an oblique sulcus on the lateral surface of the shaft associated with exostosis, indicating the possible involvement of the tendon (Figure 7). This pathology is very similar to that described by de France (2009, Figure 12). The severest case corresponds to specimen I5/C1(130), which displays extensive growth of very porous and irregular bone affecting the entire surface of the shaft. In this case, the bone is hypertrophic, which could indicate the presence of a more complex pathology (Baker & Brothwell, 1980) (Figure 8). The six remaining cases of exostosis are located on the epiphysis, mainly on the lateral and dorsal surfaces (Figures 9 and 10). Lastly, a distal metacarpal (M6-N6(151)) presents lipping on the distal condyles, mainly on the palmar surface, with a slight degree of eburnation (Figure 11), which could indicate the presence of osteoarthritis (Baker & Brothwell, 1980).

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Figure 6. First phalanx O6(67) with mild lateral exostosis. (a) Lateral view; (b) plantar view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Figure 7. First phalanx O6(68) with intermediate lateral exostosis and an oblique lateral sulcus. (a) Dorsal view; (b) lateral view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Figure 8. First phalanx I5/C1(130) with severe exostosis on the diaphysis. (a) Dorsal view; (b) lateral view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Figure 9. First phalanx M6-N6(147) with intermediate proximal exostosis. (a) Dorsal view; (b) proximal view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Figure 10. First phalanx H7/C1(97) with intermediate proximal and distal exostosis. (a) Dorsal view; (b) latero-proximal view; (c) latero-distal view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Figure 11. Distal metacarpal with lipping and mild eburnation. (a) Plantar view; (b) plantar-distal view. This figure is available in colour online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/oa.

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Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The pathologies described herein occur regularly with the early degeneration of joints as a result of constant trauma sustained over time (Baker & Brothwell, 1980). The traumas resulted from environmental factors such as walking over irregular ground, or from animal overuse for cultural reasons (Baker & Brothwell, 1980), as in the case of draught animals (Bartosiewicz et al., 1997; de Cupere et al., 2000). Considering the area studied, it is not possible to offer an environmental explanation for the abnormalities described, as we would then expect to find articular pathologies in camelids throughout the entire occupational sequence. Cartajena (2003), in a review of different archaeofaunal contexts of high Andean hunter–gatherers adjacent to the Atacama basin that were temporally assigned to the middle and early Holocene (ca. 10 000–6000 bp), found no evidence of pathologies in the remains of L. guanicoe or V. vicugna. The articular disease begins to appear later in the Holocene (Late Archaic, ca. 4500 ap) along with the first evidence of anthropogenic handling of camelids in the area, and is limited mainly to the Lama sp. (Cartajena et al., 2007; Cartajena et al., 2012). Outside of Chilean territory, osteopathologies in camelid bones come equally from deposits assigned to the Formative and to later periods (ca. 3000 bp–1700 ad) (Izeta & Cortés, 2006; de France, 2009), allowing a direct relationship to be established between domestic camelids, particularly llamas, and osteopathologies. Taking into consideration that no domestic camelid from the Andean area was used as a draught animal (Flannery et al., 1989), we concur with Izeta & Cortés (2006) that the similar pathologies on the distal extremities of camelids and bovids could be linked to the former's use as cargo animals. De France (2009) and Cartajena et al. (2012) reached a similar conclusion when examining pathologies of camelid phalanx in colonial and pre-Hispanic contexts, respectively.

The importance of llamas in the long-distance transport of goods has been documented ethnographically and ethnohistorically, and the archaeological presence of foreign objects has been assumed to have resulted from trafficking with cargo llamas (e.g. Browman, 1974, 1975; Custred, 1974; Flores Ochoa, 1977b; Núñez & Dillehay, 1979). In the Atacama region, llamas were being used as pack animals at least from Late Archaic to early colonial times over an area that included the Pacific coast, the Tarapacá desert, the Bolivian Altiplano and northwest Argentina (e.g. Martínez, 1985; Fernández-Distel, 1986; Yacobaccio, 2001, 2003; Berenguer, 2004; Nuñez et al., 2006a, 2006b; Gallardo, 2009). The repeated circulation of llamas that, according to ethnographic sources, bore loads of 20 to 60 kg (Browman, 1974) over different surfaces on routes of several hundreds of kilometres throughout their lives would no doubt have led to degenerative bone diseases in those animals. In this regard, Flannery et al. (1989), starting from actualistic observations, indicates that llamas developed arthritis and other bone diseases after 10 years working as cargo animals.

The llama caravan was composed exclusively of adult male llamas (2 years or older). Females were not used, owing to their lesser strength and their importance for breeding (Flannery et al., 1989). Alpacas were not used as cargo animals (Flores Ochoa, 1977a). Some sources suggest that castrated males were preferred for their docility and better physical suitability (Flannery et al., 1989). Ethnohistoric information collected by Yacobaccio (2010) indicated the existence of a very large llama morphotype that was specially bred for hauling cargo and known as the wanaku llama (Garcilaso de la Vega, 1980[1609]), apaq llama (Gónzalez Holguin, 1952[1608]) or Kufu kufuttaurani (Bertonio, 1984[1612]). In this regard, our osteometric results indicate the predominant presence of llamas (30 first phalanx of a total of 45 phalanx measured, which means 18 limbs from a total of 28), which is coherent with Cartajena & Concha (1997). A small group was notably larger in size than the contemporary reference specimens, whereas the bulk of the sample was of similar or slightly larger size than that documented for present-day llamas. At the same time, the archaeological specimens, particularly the anterior phalanx, were almost always more robust (e.g. proximal widths, Bp and BFp) than the cotemporary reference pieces (Table 2), even though the maximum lengths (Gl) of some of them were similar (Table 2, Figure 3).1 This would confirm the presence of at least two robust cargo morphotypes better suited for long-distance caravanning. These llamas would later have been sacrificed at Topater 1. In this regard, the size of all first phalanx with pathologies examined in this context is compatible with L. glama. Given their economic and social importance, these animals would have constituted a particular form of family and community wealth, and as such their sacrifice would have contributed to the lavish displays associated with funeral feasts and collective celebrations that, according to anthropologists, served to strengthen social solidarity (Hayden, 2009).

Regarding specimens M6/C5(22) and M6/C5(23), which displayed lengths compatible with alpaca, but with wider and deeper proximal and distal surfaces, the possibility that these correspond to V. pacos was ruled out because there is no clear evidence of this taxa in the north of Chile and/or Northwest Argentina for the period studied (Late Archaic–Early Formative). In archaeological sites of the Atacama salt flat basin, Cartajena (Cartajena et al., 2007, 2009; Cartajena, 2009) only observed size changes in the camelids of the ‘large group’ (Lama), which he attributed to human handling, while the size of the smaller group (Vicugna) remained constant. Although the authors document few incisors with morphology compatible with V. pacos (closed rooted and enamelled only on the upper part of the labial side), these features can also be observed in present-day vicuñas (Kent, 1986). Furthermore, for the middle Loa River basin, Cartajena (Cartajena, 1994; Cartajena & Concha, 1997; Cartajena et al., 2009) only documents llamas, guanacos and vicuñas with certainty, on the basis of morphological and metric analyses. Although the author finds second phalanx that are metrically compatible with alpaca at the Formative site of Chiu Chiu 273, she comments that:

The presence of alpaca in the records of this time is not conclusive. (…) The small extremities identified as alpaca could, on the one hand, suggest the presence of this animal, but on the other hand could be overlapped with the measurements of the vicuña. (Cartajena & Concha, 1997: 76)

The absence of alpaca in the zooarchaeological record has been described also for Northwest Argentina (e.g. Izeta, 2007). The greater robustness of the archaeological specimens in relation to the reference elements allows us to suppose that this was a cargo animal, even though it displays no osteopathology. As the alpacas were not used for this activity because of their special environmental needs and greater fragility (Flores Ochoa, 1977a; Novoa & Wheeler, 1984), we believe that this could correspond to a third llama morphotype, one that was smaller than the guanacos of reference but much more robust and suitable for carrying cargo. Alternatively, it is possible that there was a llama–alpaca hybrid (e.g. warizo or llapaca) from the Central Andean region, although there is little research to date on hybridisation processes in prehistoric times (Wheeler et al., 1995). This last interpretation is in line with Cartajena & Concha (1997). De France (2009) reported a phalanx of a size compatible with the alpaca but with pathologies attributable to cargo animals in colonial sites of Peru, which he attributed to small llamas or to a llama–alpaca hybrid.

Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Using osteometric analysis, we determined the predominant presence of L. glama among the offerings in the Formative cemetery of Topater 1 (18 out of 28 limbs), some of them very large and more robust than present-day reference samples (greater proximal width). The findings allow us to support the presence of at least two llama morphotypes during the Formative period in Chile's Norte Grande. The presence of other domestic llama forms of medium or small size in Topater 1 cannot be ruled out, as several specimens similar or slightly larger in size than the Andean guanaco were also found but could not be assigned with relative certainty. In this regard, on the basis of existing information supporting the complex management of domestic taxa in pre-Hispanic times in Peru (Wheeler et al., 1995), it could be suggested that the same practices could have been used in the southern Andes. Osteopathological evidence (mainly exostosis, lipping and eburnation) recorded on part of the sample of distal extremities recovered from Topater 1 is concordant with animals that were subjected to repeated trauma throughout their lives. The intensity of these diseases, however, is lower than that documented for colonial times (de France, 2009).

On the basis of the osteometric and pathological information collected, we propose that the funerary goods found in this cemetery include a significant presence of cargo-bearing llamas. In life, these animals would have transported goods to facilitate the intense exchange activities taking place during that period in the region, which included the Pacific coast and northwest Argentina at least.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Our thanks go to the staff and management of the Corporación Cultural y Turismo de Calama. Joan Donaghey helped with the translation. This investigation was financed by FONDECYT grant no. 1110702. We would like to thank the anonymous referees for their careful review of the manuscript and their helpful suggestions.

  1. 1

    The Wilcoxon test did not produce significant differences between the archaeological and contemporary maximum lengths (Gl) of the Lama genus (Z = −0.445, p = 0.657).

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  4. The Topater 1 site
  5. Material and methods
  6. Results
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusions
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
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