Mummified parrots level to commerce within the historical Atacama desert

Mummified scarlet macaw recovered from Pica 8 in northern Chile. Calogero Santoro and José Capriles. Credit score: Calogero Santoro, Universidad de Tarapacá, and José Capriles, Penn State

Historic Egyptians mummified cats, canines, ibises and different animals, however nearer to dwelling within the South American Atacama desert, parrot mummies reveal that between 1100 and 1450 CE, commerce from different areas introduced parrots and macaws to oasis communities, based on a global and interdisciplinary workforce.


“Feathers are valued throughout the Americas and we see them in high-status burials,” mentioned José M. Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. “We do not know the way the feathers acquired there, the routes they took or the community.”

Parrots and macaws should not native to the Atacama, which is in northern Chile and is the driest desert on the earth, however archaeologists have discovered feathers in burial context and preserved in leather-based containers or different protecting materials, they usually have additionally discovered mummified birds—parrots and macaws—at archaeological websites.

“The truth that reside birds made their manner throughout the more-than-10,000-foot-high Andes is superb,” mentioned Capriles. “They needed to be transported throughout large steppes, chilly climate and troublesome terrain to the Atacama. And so they needed to be stored alive.”

Capriles, an archaeologist, grew up round parrots and macaws as a result of his father was a wildlife supervisor and his mom, Eliana Flores Bedregal, was a Bolivian ornithologist on the Museo Nacional de Historia Pure in La Paz till her dying in 2017.

Whereas a postdoctoral fellow in Chile, Capriles investigated the commerce and transport of products like coca, shell, metals, feathers and animals round Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

Mummified parrots point to trade in the ancient Atacama desert
Element of mummified blue-fronted amazon recovered from Pica 8 cemetery within the Atacama Desert. Credit score: Calogero Santoro, Universidad de Tarapacá and José Capriles, Penn State

“Calogero Santoro, professor of anthropology at Universidad de Tarapacá, talked about the birds to my mom when she came visiting and urged we research them,” mentioned Capriles. “Our thought was to say one thing about these parrots, the place they had been coming from and what species had been represented. My mom is a coauthor on this paper.”

Most parrot and macaw stays, whether or not mummified or not, reside in museums. The workforce visited collections round northern Chile for almost three years taking a look at a variety of what had been discovered.

“As soon as we began engaged on this, we discovered a lot materials about macaws and parrots,” mentioned Capriles. “Columbus took parrots again to Europe and the historic significance of macaw feathers for pre-Columbian societies was ubiquitous.”

Many of the hen stays the researchers discovered date to between 1000 and 1460 CE, starting on the finish of the Tiwanaku empire and simply earlier than the Inca got here by way of the world. In response to Capriles, it was a time of warfare, but in addition a good time for commerce, with frequent llama caravans transferring about.

The researchers studied 27 full or partial stays of scarlet macaws and Amazon parrots from 5 oasis websites within the Atacama. They report their outcomes immediately (Mar. 29) within the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences.

Utilizing zooarchaeological evaluation, isotopic dietary reconstruction, radiocarbon relationship and historical DNA testing, the analysis catalogued scarlet macaws and no less than 5 different parrot species that had been transported from over 300 miles away within the japanese Amazon. The workforce mapped the distinct pure habitation ranges of scarlet macaws, blue and yellow macaws and the assorted parrots to attempt to decide how they traveled to the Atacama.

Mummified parrots point to trade in the ancient Atacama desert
Dwell scarlet macaw from the Bolivian Amazonia. Credit score: Carlos Capriles Farfán

The researchers additionally discovered that the birds had been consuming the identical weight loss program because the agriculturalists who owned them.

“What we take into account acceptable interactions with animals below our care was very completely different again then,” mentioned Capriles. “A few of these birds didn’t reside a cheerful life. They had been stored to supply feathers and their feathers had been plucked out as quickly as they grew in.”

Maybe extra uncommon than the import of parrots and macaws and their usefulness in feather manufacturing was their therapy after dying. Most of the parrots had been discovered mummified with their mouths large open and their tongues protruding. Others had their wings unfold large in everlasting flight.

“We now have completely no thought why they had been mummified like this,” mentioned Capriles. “They appear to be eviscerated by way of their cloaca (a standard excretory and reproductive opening), which helped to protect them. Many instances, they had been wrapped in textiles or baggage.”

Sadly, most of the birds had been salvage finds—acquired exterior of formal archaeological tasks—so some varieties of information are lacking, however the birds are sometimes related to human burials.

The vast majority of the mummies had been discovered at Pica 8, a web site close to an oasis neighborhood that also exists immediately as a locus of products transport. Pica 8 had agriculture throughout the time the birds lived there and is presently the supply of prized lemons.

“We all know that the birds had been dwelling there,” mentioned Capriles. “That they had been consuming the identical meals that individuals had been consuming enriched with the nitrogen from maize fertilized with marine hen manure. Llamas should not the perfect pack animals, as a result of they don’t seem to be that robust. The truth that llama caravans introduced macaws and parrots throughout the Andes and throughout the desert to this oasis is superb.”


Macaws might talk visually with blushing, ruffled feathers


Extra info:
José M. Capriles el al., “Pre-Columbian transregional captive rearing of Amazonian parrots within the Atacama Desert,” PNAS (2021). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2020020118

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Pennsylvania State College

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Mummified parrots level to commerce within the historical Atacama desert (2021, March 29)
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