Guitarrero Cave: ~ (11 000 BCE)
La Cueva del Guitarrero is an archaeological site located in Peru, in Callejón de Huaylas, 2 km north of the town of Shupluy and 1 km west of Mancos, on the western shore of the Santa River (50m above, Shupluy district, Yungay province, Department of Ancash). It was occupied during the lytic period (nomadic hunters' time) and the archaic (incipient agriculture stage), so that in its various layers are fossil remains of that evolution.
It was discovered by American archaeologist Thomas Lynch. It contains the vestiges of one of the oldest human settlements of Peru, whose antiquity goes back to the XII millennium a. C. (about 11,000 a.C., lithic period). Evidence of the human presence of this remote epoch consists of crude stone artifacts, human bone fragments, and bones of the local fauna. In addition to lithic instruments and animal bones, artifacts of wood and bone have been found from the Archaic epoch, and knotted fabrics of vegetable fibers. It was also detected the presence of many plants, among them some domestic ones, like the frejol, whose antiquity was fixed in the 8,500 a.C. Approximately, what turned the man of Guitarrero into the first horticulturist or incipient farmer of Peru and of America in general. However, in 1999, Lynch himself corrected that dating, significantly decreasing it by several millennia. The man from Guitarrero then ceased to be considered the oldest horticulturist in Peru and America, which is now attributed to the man from Nanchoc, who lived in the valley of Alto Saña, south of the department of Cajamarca.
Guitarrero is a cave whose mouth faces east, where the sun rises. Its entrance has the shape of an irregular arc. Its enclosure is about 100 m² in length and 10 m deep. It is 150 meters above the level of the Santa River, at an altitude of 2580 meters above sea level, on the eastern slope of the Cordillera Negra, which belongs to the Quechua Region.
Thomas Lynch placed four levels or complexes of human occupation:
• Guitarcer I (11,000 to 8,000 BCE) Preceramic (Lítico).
• Guitarcer II (8,000 to 5,600 BCE) Preceramic (Ancient).
• Guitarrero III (5,780 BCE)
• Guitar IV (discrepant dates: 8.225 ± 240 and 2.315 ± 125 BP)
The dates attributed to each of these levels or complexes has been the subject of discussion. Other reinterpretations tend to lower the older ones.
The earliest date of the first level was initially calculated by Lynch at 12,560 ± 360 BP. (I.e., about 11,000-10,000 BC).
Guitar Player I (Lítico)
The first bands of hunter-gatherers had to reach Callejón de Huaylas by 10,000 BC. At that time the glaciers had spread and therefore could not live in the highlands for long periods. People had to look for warmer areas to help supplement their annual subsistence cycle. In that context, the Guitarrero Cave had to be used as a temporary camp during the hunting season. That is, the hunters lived there part of the year, and then temporarily abandoned.
As evidence of this human presence, traces of charcoal were found in the deeper layers of the cave, as well as crude lithic artifacts: scrapers, crushers, stone hammers, a lanceolate tip, as well as a small bifacial knife, materials. All that the primitive men left abandoned. Associated to this first occupation were also found a human premolar and phalange.
The lithic industry of Guitarrero I is different from others on the Peruvian coast, such as that of Paiján, but it shares general elements with that of the Ayacucho complex, located in the southern Peruvian highlands.
The lack of moisture in the cave also allowed the preservation of abundant bone remains of animals that allowed the determination of the diet of the man from Guitarrero. The earliest fauna is composed of various animals, vizcachas, wild guinea pigs, skunks, partridges, ducks, lizards. Something later appears remains of deer and few wild camelids.
The remains of this period consist of charcoal remnants, numerous artifacts of wood, bone and horn, twines and knotted woven of vegetable fibers, and lithic artifacts such as lanceolate tips, a stone for grinding and numerous scrapers.
In the early Archaic period the men of Guitarrero or the Santa River combined their activities of hunters with the horticulture of legumes, peppers and pumpkins, as well as the cultivation of beans and “pallares”. Thus began the stage of incipient agriculture.
For a long time, the man of Guitarrero was considered the first horticulturist of Peru and America, and one of the first of the world, due to an erroneous calculation of Thomas Lynch, that dated the seeds of beans in 8,500 years BC. Approximately, that is, in the pre-agricultural era. This led him to conjecture that the hunter-gatherer of that time had begun to diversify his economic activity. The point is that Lynch had initially used the method of association, ie the dated were not calculated directly from the seeds but from the coal from the stoves and the associated textile fibers, a method that lends itself to errors since there is always the possibility of That the samples studied come from different epochs and are mixed by chance. In 1999, Lynch, based on new dating techniques such as AMS (Mass Spectrometry Accelerator), corrected this dated, lowering it between 3030 and 2890 BCE, that is, belonging to the late archaic. It was also found with a “lima bean”, which dated between 1880 and 1750 BCE.
For some, it is difficult to think that the man from Guitarreros II developed an horticulture, due to the location of the cave. If the seeds were thrown near the cave, the slope of the rains would have transported them to the Santa River. Rather the idea is that the plants were transported from other places; however, the man may have used the platform method. The cave was also used as a cemetery in the late period.
Who is the oldest man in Peru?
From the works of the American archaeologist Richard MacNeish in the area of Ayacucho (1969-1974), the man from Pacaicasa (from the deepest stratum of the Piquimachay cave) was considered the oldest in Peru, with an antiquity of 20,000 BC. However, this hypothesis was questioned by other archaeologists, such as Augusto Cardich and Duccio Bonavia, because it did not provide sufficient evidence. More reliable were other human traces found in Lauricocha (Huánuco), El Guitarrero (Ancash), Paiján (La Libertad) and even the Ayacucho phase of Piquimachay, but none of them exceeded the age of 13,000 to 10,000 BCE.
At the First International Meeting of Peruvians, held by the University of Lima in September 1996, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and other scientists who participated in this cultural event were in agreement with the exposition of Augusto Cardich, who confirmed the antiquity given to the remains of Lauricocha and El Guitarrero, but he questioned that of Pacaicasa. On the Cueva del Guitarrero, he said: "It is a scientific truth that it is the oldest remains of the Andean population."
Archaeologist Joaquín Narváez Luna has stressed that the dated Guitarrero I come from coal of the fires. Nárvaez did the calibration of the dated 12,560 ± 360 BP. Calculated by Lynch, for which he used the Fairbanks method, and located it "between 13,097 and 12,101 BCE, which would be definitely Pleistocene (considering that the Pleistocene concludes about 9,600 BC)", so that the man of Guitarrero would be the oldest in Peru. However other archaeologists like Danièle Lavallée consider as such the man from Ayacucho (second phase of the cave of Piquimachay).
The people of Guitarrero Cave are possible ancestors of the Chavín culture.
Some of the earliest cultivated plants in South America have been found in the cave. They include:
- Ají pepper (Capsicum baccatum): first appears at Guitarrero cave in 8,500 BCE
- Oca (Oxalis tuberosa): first appears 8,500–7,500 BCE
- Aji (Capsicum chinense): first appears 8,000–7,500 BCE
- Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): first appears 8,000–7,500 BCE
- Pallar bean (Phaseolus lunatus): first appears 8,000–7,5000 BCE
- Lúcuma (Lucuma bifera): first appears 8,000–5,500 BCE
- Olluco (Ullucus tuberosus): first appears 6,000 BCE at the cave Peru, and next at Guitarrero cave 5,500 BCE.
- Zapallo (Cucurbita sp.): first appears 7,000 BCE
- Maize or corn (Zea mays): possibly first traces but not conclusively identified from 6,200 BCE. Maize has been identified in the Ayacucho Region of south central Peru as early as 4,400 and 3,100 BCE.