Gifts from the Camelids: Archaeobotanical Insights into Camelid Pastoralism Through the Study of Dung

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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

The Archaeology of Andean Pastoralism


As archaeobotanists we query the archaeological plant record to understand ancient wild plant gathering, agriculture, and foodways: the quintessential components of human interactions with the plant world. When working with macrobotanical records from the high Andes, however, we confront the reality that most of the wild plant remains we encounter in archaeological settings are the direct result of a human-animal interaction via the use of camelid dung for fuel (Winterhalder et al. 1974). Because only carbonized plant remains preserve in the seasonally wet environments of the Andean mountains, the plants we see are those that were burned. Camelids provide the most important source of fuel in the largely treeless environment, and thus are the primary contributors to the archaeological plant record (Browman 1989; Hastorf and Wright 1998).


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