GPR and Gradiometry in the Hyper-Arid Atacama: Assessing Features Among Fossil Channels, Paleosols, and Lithic Dispersions at Quebrada Mani 35, Chile

Lecture | February 6 | 12-1 p.m. |  2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

 Nicholas Tripcevich, Lab Manager, Archaeological Research Facility; Scott Byram, Owner, Feature Survey, Inc; José M. Capriles, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, The Pennsylvania State University; Calogero M. Santoro, Professor of Archaeology, Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Chile

 Archaeological Research Facility

In the hyper-arid core of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile dozens of Terminal Pleistocene archaeological sites have been located in an area that previously held seasonal surface water channels and a riparian landscape. These sites shed light on the early peopling of western South America because the sites have had little disturbance with the ensuing extreme aridity for most of the Holocene. Here we present preliminary results from geophysical research in December of 2018 at the site of Quebrada Mani 35 employing GPR and gradiometer funded by the PCI Project PII20150081 and an institutional collaboration between Universidad de Tarapaca in Chile and University of California, Berkeley. At QM 35, archaeological features distributed along east-west fossil stream channels that transported Andean water west towards pluvial basins have been dated between 12.5 to 11.2k cal BP. In addition, horse, ground sloth, camelid and rodent remains are present along with extensive botanical remains and concentrations of lithics. GPR and gradiometer data show numerous geomorphic features that tell us about the site setting, and possible cultural features awaiting further testing. 

Author Biographies
Nico Tripcevich is the laboratory manager at the ARF. He received his PhD in 2007 from UC Santa Barbara and has been working in the Andean region for twenty years. He specialises in geospatial applications in archaeology, geophysical methods, and obsidian XRF. He co-edited Mining and Quarrying in the Ancient Andes (Springer 2012) and The Archaeology of Andean Pastoralism (Univ of New Mexico Press 2016)

Scott Byram regularly performs ground-penetrating radar projects in California and the Pacific Northwest. He has collaborated in GPR studies with researchers at several universities on three continents and Oceania, and often works with Native communities on non-destructive approaches to site assessment. Byram received his PhD from the University of Oregon and he began an ARF research affiliate in 2007. His publications cover topics such as GPR, archaeological method and theory, landscape archaeology, and Native American ethnohistory. Byram's research has greatly expanded the study of features such as intertidal fishing weirs and buried adobe walls. He takes a holistic approach to past landscape reconstruction, often incorporating in depth archival research, and relying on his extensive experience in excavation and site survey in coastal, alluvial, montane and desert settings.

José M. Capriles is Assistant Professor at Penn State’s Department of Anthropology. He is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in environmental archaeology, South American archaeology, and zooarchaeology. His research focuses on humans adaptations to the extreme environments, economic and ecological processes involved in the development of early camelid pastoralism and other food production economies, and the emergence and expansion of complex societies.

Calogero M. Santoro is Full Professor of Archaeology in the Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Chile. For more than 40 years he has conducted broad based interdisciplinary research on the South American archaeology, covering topics from long-term cultural process of adaptation and environmental changes, social complexity among maritime societies, rock art, and Andean macro-regional interaction. He has published about 200 articles, scientific books, and general outreach texts. This interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research has integrated undergraduate and postgraduate students, postdoctoral, and specialized scholars from Chile and other countries in the Americas, Australia and Europe. He has received a number of national and international research grants and has taught in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and France.