artefactos vegetales preceramico perú | Cucurbita | Potato

Gourd and squash artifacts yield starch grains of feasting foods from preceramic Peru

Neil A. Duncan1, Deborah M. Pearsall, and Robert A. Benfer, Jr.
Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211 Edited by Michael E. Moseley, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, and approved June 8, 2009 (received for review March 26, 2009)

In a study of residues from gourd and squash artifacts, we recovered starch grains from manioc (Manihot esculenta), potato (Solanum sp.), chili pepper (Capsicum spp.), arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), and algarrobo (Prosopis sp.) from feasting contexts at the Buena Vista site, a central Peruvian preceramic site dating to Ϸ2200 calendar years B.C. This study has implications for the study of plant food use wherever gourds or squashes are preserved, documents the earliest evidence for the consumption of algarrobo and arrowroot in Peru, and provides insights into foods consumed at feasts.

n enhanced understanding of the use of bottle gourds in aceramic cultures through the examination of starch residues on the gourds’ interior surfaces provides us with a potential pathway to understanding behavioral, economic, symbolic, and ritual contexts in which these artifacts are found. The myriad uses for the shells of bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and squash (Cucurbita sp.) in the archaeological record for both tools and, for squash, food complicates determination of the precise use of these materials without direct contextual information, such as gourd fishing floats attached to nets (1), or encountering whole or partial gourd artifacts from which one can infer their use through ethnographic analogy (2). In this study, we extracted starch from the residues of fragmented squash (Cucurbita) and gourd (L. siceraria) serving vessels deposited in a ritual context at the Buena Vista site in central Peru, located Ϸ35 km inland (11°43Ј51.72ЉS, 76°58Ј5.45ЉW) from the mouth of the Chillo ´n River (Fig. 1). Overlooking the valley floor, Buena Vista contains monumental late preceramic architecture. Its large, elaborate, isolated space with uniquely patterned astronomical alignments (3) suggest that it served as a small ceremonial center in the central Chillo ´n Valley. The starch residues of edible plants found on the artifacts and the special archaeological context from which these artifacts were recovered suggest that the artifacts were used in a ritual setting for the serving and production of food. Among archaeologists, there is tremendous interest in the examination of feasting, defined loosely as the sharing of food or drink in a special context or for a special purpose (4), in understanding the social relationships between emergent elites and commoners. The use of food, particularly chicha (maize beer), in traditional Andean systems in the materialization of public labor is well documented (5, 6); however, the prehistoric use of food in religious, social, or economic rituals in the Andes is less understood (7, 8). Gourd and squash artifacts for this study were recovered from a central feature in the Fox Temple at Buena Vista, named after an incised stylized drawing of a fox in the doorway. At the top of the temple mound, a large room (Ϸ15 ϫ 7 m) contained an elevated platform within which there was a sunken niche-walled pit (Fig. 2 A and B) from which the materials in this study were recovered. The temple was intentionally interred, as is consistent with the ritual entombment of monumental architecture at other Andean sites, particularly at Kotosh (9–11), which shares similar architectural features with Buena Vista. The room itself was found clean of refuse, save for a single tree trunk lying adjacent to the platform in the center. Within the platform, the sunken pit contained well-stratified and abundant food and other plant
13202–13206 ͉ PNAS ͉ August 11, 2009 ͉ vol. 106 ͉ no. 32

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remains, a few mussel shells, and some small fish remains. Abundant food remains, including seeds of chili peppers (Capsicum sp.), guava (Psidium guayaba), lucuma (Pouteria lucuma), and squashes (Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, and C. ficifolia) and rind fragments of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), manioc (Manihot esculenta), and potato (Solanum sp.), were recovered with the remains of nonfood plants such as cotton (Gossypium barbadense), grass, fragments of agave leaves (Furcraea andina), and partially burnt twigs and charcoal. Faunal remains are much less abundant and limited primarily to mussel shells and small fish vertebrae. Charcoal from separate stratigraphic levels within the pit provided two radiocarbon dates, both Ϸ2200 calendar years B.C. (Table 1), suggesting that the pit was filled in a short period. The sequence of burial began with what might be described as an ‘‘organic protective layer’’ similar to that described in the temple entombment at Huaca Soledad (12), a 5to 10-cm-deep layer of grass and fine silt that covered the bottom of the pit, atop which commingled organics, grass, leaves, and food remains were placed. Small round cobbles and gravel topped this layer, followed by more mixed organic material, then capped with small angular gravel. The surrounding room was then filled with large rocks, some as large as 60 cm in diameter, to the level of the top of the platform. Last, the entire room was filled with shicra, cane bags filled with rock. Archaeological starch grain research has contributed greatly to the study of plant use and consumption by humans (13–15). However, this is the first study to analyze residue from bottle gourd or squash artifacts. One cannot underestimate the significance of squash and bottle gourds to humans. Utilitarian bottle gourds and edible squashes are among the first cultivars in the Americas (16, 17). On the Peruvian coast, bottle gourds are common in preceramic contexts and closely associated with maritime subsistence as net floats (1). However, their use also enters the realm of the sacred as symbolic containers (18) and for serving ritual libations. As demonstrated here, residue analysis can help to determine use. Results Starch grains were recovered from squash and gourd artifacts by employing a method similar to that used to recover microfossils from stone tools and ceramics (see SI Materials and Methods). First, the artifact is placed in a sonicating water bath to loosen and remove adhering residue, which is collected as Sediment 1. Then, the artifact’s interior surface is lightly brushed to remove any remaining residue, collected as Sediment 2. Starch grains are then isolated from each of these sediments (Tables 2 and 3). The artifacts in this study are well-preserved, desiccated specimens recovered under conditions of exceptional preservaAuthor contributions: N.A.D. and D.M.P. designed research; N.A.D. and R.A.B. performed research; D.M.P. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; N.A.D. analyzed data; and N.A.D. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest. This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
1To

whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: neilduncan@mizzou.edu.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/ 0903322106/DCSupplemental.

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02. 32 ͉ 13203 Duncan et al. PNAS ͉ August 11. 1. 21–23). Other hemisphere-shaped grains with two basal facets are consistent with manioc but not diagnostic on their own. Maranta arundinacea (arrowroot). Artifacts and radiocarbon dated contexts Artifact nos. Grain size is in the upper range of domesticated manioc starch and likely too large to be wild (25). thus. tion (Fig. The sunken pit and platform in the Fox Temple.790 Ϯ 80 BP (GX-32177) No date Date in calendar years B. Solanum (potato). (A) Photograph of sunken pit facing east. 3B) is a relatively large (28 ␮m in diameter) sphere with two basal facets and a large stellate-shaped fissure. (GX-31276) No date 3. level 100 produced only three transient starch grains. (Inset) Location of Buena Vista in the Chillo ´ n Valley. As expected. batatas (sweet potato).P. Level 400 Sunken Pit: Unit 10. Given the potential for variation within a taxon. Another grain identified as M. above the levels containing the starch-bearing gourd and squash fragments (Table 1). Level 425 Unit 10.Fig. non-Cucurbitaceae starch grains occurred in a higher number in the Sediment 1 samples. Thus. 2460–1980 calibrated 2470–2020 calibrated ANTHROPOLOGY Standard radiocarbon date from associated charcoal. we identified starch from the mesocarp of the artifact itself. esculenta. Cuad 3. There is no significant difference in the number of Cucurbitaceae starch grains between Sediment 1 (sonicated) and Sediment 2 (brushed) samples. Manioc starch occurs on three artifacts. Squash and gourd fragments can be distinguished easily by cross-section (19). Fig.C. Feature 1. and Capsicum (chili pepper). We securely identified five taxa: M. (B) Stratigraphic profile of the pit contents from which artifacts were studied. Facet morphology is distinct from similar grains in Cucurbitaceae and I. 2␴ calibrated result. they were identified as M. 2. multiple criteria must be used to identify an individual grain (24). A strong case can be made that non-Cucurbitaceae economic starch grains in both Sediment 1 and Sediment 2 represent residues from artifact use and not transfer of starch from soils adjacent to the artifacts (20). One Cucurbita sp. Our identifications are conservative. esculenta (manioc). the non-Cucurbitaceae starch grains appear to occur in greater concentration in the food residue adhering to the outermost interior surface of the artifact’s surviving mesocarp. . 04.770 Ϯ 80 B. esculenta is spherical with a depressed linear fissure and a regular extinction Radiocarbon years B. 05. Prosopis (algarrobo). One grain (Fig. Feature 1. S1). 08 09. all from Level 200. Analysis of soils in the sunken pit Table 1. However. Seven of the 10 artifacts yielded starch. Location of Buena Vista on the central coast of Peru. 3. 03. 2009 ͉ vol.P. Level 300 Sunken Pit: Unit 10. fragment was studied and yielded several noncucurbit starch grains. 106 ͉ no. indicating that Cucurbita fruits also were used as food containers or serving vessels (Table 2). Feature 1. 10 Context Sunken Pit: Unit 10. Starch identifications were aided by a collection of Ͼ250 comparative neotropical starch specimens and regional starch reports and keys (13. 07 01.

C. The unusual lobed shape with protuberances and a deeply depressed area at the hilum.org͞cgi͞doi͞10. In Perry’s study (22). Despite its widespread and long record of use in the neotropics (26). With floodplain irrigation. All others identified as Lagenaria siceraria. Prosopis consists of several closely related and morphologically similar species with high hybridization potential. A long history of algarrobo use occurs in Argentina. Sediment no. 3D). In Peru. patterns of cooccurrence of taxa on gourd artifacts will help us to better understand preferences for certain food combinations or certain combinations limited to ritual use. Discussion Four of the 10 artifacts sampled yielded starch from multiple taxa other than Cucurbitaceae and provide clues to preceramic cuisine. 3F). Alternatively. both of which can be fermented into alcoholic beverages. arrowroot is underrepresented in Peruvian contexts.1073͞pnas. flexuosa (35).2%) Other starch 11 (33.2%) 16 (48. manioc is believed to have been domesticated in the southern Amazon (26–27). the multiple taxa on the artifacts may represent repeated use of the containers in both ritual and secular contexts. Species similarities are reflected in the pod starch grains. the type appears with diagnostic grains and faceted hemispheres in comparative manioc samples. and many wild forms exist (31).0903322106 . however. At this time. this study presents the first microfossil evidence and earliest evidence of algarrobo consumption in Peru.pnas.3%) 5 (15. thus. the large stellate fissure consistent with the lowland morphotype is present in the Buena Vista assemblage. arrowroot could have been cultivated easily. For example. wild Maranta is not known from the coast of Peru.3%) 8 (24. Capsicum sp. Capsicum is reported widely from late preceramic sites on the coast of Peru (32) and in the highlands (15) and present in macroremains at Buena Vista. Manihot esculenta Solanum sp. however. less is understood regarding prehistoric consumption of algarrobo pods. Alternatively. Summary of starch grain data from squash and gourd artifacts Number of samples Sample type Sediment 1 Sediment 2 Total Cucurbitaceae starch 9 (27. along with a very irregular extinction cross. Potato macroremains and microfossils are reported from a number of contemporaneous sites throughout Peru (28–30). Starch grain data from squash and gourd artifacts per sediment sample Artifact no. Several potato species and many varieties are and have been cultivated. 36) or more rarely for seeds and edible pods (34). The central linear feature is diagnostic of starches in this genus (15). however. Currently. the most parsimonious explanation for arrowroot starch on these gourd artifacts is that it was grown near Buena Vista. juliflora in the northwest (33). The presence of these artifacts along with plant foods in a special context is highly consistent with an interpretation of feasting (4). which are today ground into flour to make a syrup. 3C). starch grains from initial period and late precontact manioc specimens from coastal Peru lacked the distinguishing stellate fissure (13) characteristic of lowland Amazonian manioc starch. Each species produces similar sweet edible pods. that the containers provide evidence of manioc and algarrobo. This type may be a genus-level indicator of starch produced in Prosopis pods. Capsicum (chili pepper) is represented by a single flattened lenticular starch grain with an indented base and a linear feature visible in side view (Fig. Maranta arundinacea Prosopis sp. The possibility that these plants could have been used in the production of alcohol during the preceramic should not be overlooked. beginning 10. algarrobina.000 years ago (35). unlike anything else in our reference collection. (28). chilensis in higher elevations of the south and P. Starch identified as Prosopis (algarrobo) also occurs in the artifact residue (Fig. Additional manioc starch from early coastal contexts would help to clarify these issues. in future research. may be significant (33. this starch grain represents an early lowland variety that ceased to be cultivated or is not related to later coastal forms. cross. the dominant Prosopis on the Peruvian coast is P.2%) 17 (51. 13204 ͉ www. chilensis and P. Two grains identified as M. a systematic study showed that there are no differences in starch between P. The only other evidence for arrowroot in the central Andes comes from microfossils at Waynuna in the southern highlands in contexts dating to 2050–1650 B. Thus. Manihot esculenta cf. Lagenaria siceraria Cucurbita sp. Algarrobo is ubiquitous in pre-Colombian Peru. Algarrobo starch has a unique appearance. Duncan et al. However. there is considerable confusion in the botanical (33) and archaeological (34) literature regarding its identification. Unidentified Unidentified root/tuber Total starch 1 1 2 1 4 3 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 8 1 1 3 2 3 1 4 1 3 1 3 0 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2* 2 1 2 3 2 1 1 4 2 1 1 2 5 2 1 1 6 2 1 1 7 2 1 1 8 2 1 9 2 1 10 2 0 1 Sediment 1 was removed from the artifact by sonicating water bath. artifact. A starch grain from Solanum (potato) tuber was identified (Fig. This grain lacks basal facets. 37). This grain possibly represents an earlier imported Amazonian manioc variety that was subject to selection over time. with P. Manioc macroremains are widespread in coastal preceramic contexts. making the starch grains identified in this study highly unlikely to represent a wild form. To our knowledge. such as fermented chicha de algarrobo. arundinacea (arrowroot) occur on two gourd fragments (Fig. correspond closely with starch produced in Prosopis. Likewise. Potato has great significance to modern and ancient Andean populations. Sediment 2 was removed by brushing the artifact’s interior surface. we cannot identify this starch grain to a species. Also.5%) Total 20 13 33 thousand meters above its natural range. Our sample size is small.Table 2. most often as wood for fuel or construction (30. pallida. 3E). At several Table 3. eventually resulting in the morphotypes seen in later coastal assemblages. the Waynuna arrowroot represents an imported cultivar. *Cucurbita sp. or for drinks.

perhaps as a final symbolic act of cancellation of the pit before the room’s interment. Archaeological starch granules recovered from gourd and squash artifacts from Buena Vista. the interior surface of each artifact was gently brushed to further dislodge loose residue. not unlike in later periods.) from Artifact 4. the starch was floated out from sediment using a heavy liquid solution of cesium chloride. whereby labor would be mobilized toward a communal goal. we studied modern dried gourds collected in Chiclayo. Macroremain analysis is ongoing. resealable plastic bag. (D) Chili pepper (Capsicum sp. In the archaeological samples. are counterindicative of offerings but consistent with the refuse of consumption. feasting event(s) before the entombment of the Fox Temple likely served both political and ritual functions. for astronomical observation or for ritual offerings of liquid libations such as later ushnu (39). then placed in a sonicating water bath to release loose residue. Also. feasting before the temple’s entombment may have served also as a symbolic act toward canceling the original function of the temple. and cotton seeds and fiber. the unique architectural feature from which the artifacts were recovered suggests a special ritual use of food in a feasting context. the remains are more likely to be the refuse from feasting associated with the ritual entombment of the temple. The sediments obtained were then chemically dispersed using a disodium salt solution. this study documents the earliest evidence of both algarrobo and arrowroot in Peru. Starch grains of Cucurbitaceae are also discernable from nonrelated taxa. and domestically purchased or grown squashes (Fig. The social and ritual use of food in emergent complex society is not well understood. Methods Comparative Squash and Gourd Starch. Excavation in the Fox Temple in 2005 was carried out by students in the University of Missouri Field School at Buena Vista and the University of Frederico Villareal of Lima. Despite their large size and complexity. then lightly oxidized with hydrogen peroxide. the fragmentary remains of the plant material. although ancient. (F) Algarrobo (Prosopis sp. at the contemporary site of Cerro Lampay (7) on the north central coast. potato. and this research enhances our potential for understanding these issues. Starch Grain Sampling of Squash and Gourd Artifacts. Note the central stellate fissure. Although there is some overlap in starch morphotypes in Cucurbitaceae. 32 ͉ 13205 ANTHROPOLOGY . (C) Potato (Solanum sp. We thank the Peruvian National Institute of Culture for providing the permits to excavate and export archaeoPNAS ͉ August 11. To obtain Sediment 2. Politically. To obtain Sediment 1. especially in Peru. Peru. (A) Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) starch hemisphere from Artifact 3. Note the central linear feature. At Buena Vista. Gourd and squash artifacts containing starch residues provide direct evidence of the production and consumption of cultivated or managed plants used for food or drink. 3. S3). To differentiate gourd and squash starch grains from those of other producers. and chili pepper. its association with feasting as a ritual component or to organize and motivate labor. leaders could have used feasting as a means to cultivate and maintain social relationships. Ritually. In addition to manioc.) from Artifact 3.Fig. grass. Sediments 1 and 2. where feasting involving maize beer helped to mobilize labor to maintain canals in the Andes (6). the vegetal contents of the pit likely do not represent the original intended function or symbolism of the pit. (B) Manioc (Manihot esculenta) from Artifact 7. particularly the preponderance of nonedible parts of food plants and broken gourd and squash serving vessels found in the pit. however. multiple small scale construction events were preceded by feasting rituals hosted by informal leaders who lacked the social power to organize large amounts of labor for more massive building events. Slides were mounted using distilled water and glycerol and scanned on a Zeiss standard transmitted light microscope equipped with polarizing light filters at 25ϫ and 40ϫ. Therefore. In studying comparative gourd and squash specimens. many monumental sites constructed in the preceramic could have been built by a small local population organized by emergent leaders who used feasts as ritual and political tools in materializing labor.) from Artifact 6. The concentration of feasting remains in the sunken pit may reflect the concentration of symbolic power before its burial. each artifact was submerged in distilled water within a high-quality. 106 ͉ no. including charred and uncharred wood. We adapted procedures for extracting microfossil residues from stone tools and ceramics (see SI Materials and Methods). Finally. For example. This may explain the relatively few Cucurbitaceae starch granules in the residues. we found abundant starch in the dried mesocarp tissue but relatively fewer starch granules in the exocarp. producing two sediment extractions from each tool. however. and the concentration of refuse in the pit suggests a deliberate sequestration of these remains. S2 and Fig. Ritual entombment of monumental architecture was practiced commonly in the preceramic and later. (E) Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) from Artifact 6. research should apply to other areas and time periods in which gourds and squash rinds are preserved. has been investigated only recently. only the outer exocarp layers survive. 2009 ͉ vol. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. Common Andean offerings of coca leaves are conspicuously absent. Rather. This kind of Duncan et al. The potential for understanding plant food consumption and production in aceramic contexts is greatly enhanced through an analysis of residues on gourd and squash artifacts. squashes and gourds can be distinguished to genus and species based on the diagnostic morphology of starch grains (38).

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