Early Coastal Fibre Technology from Caleta Vitor Archaeological Complex, Northern Chile
Caleta Vitor archaeological complex is at the coastal end of the Chaca Valley of far northern Chile, an area best known for the extreme aridity of the Atacama Desert and the world’s oldest artificial mummification (c. 7,000BP). Survival in this region depended on the rich biota of the Pacific Ocean and the fibre processing technologies required to exploit marine resources, such as lines and nets. Despite the significance of these items, the development of fibre technology before the arrival of highland migrants during the Formative period (3,500 BP) has never been systematically studied. This has resulted in a presumption that these people were passive receivers of the technology rather than developers or refiners. Contrary to this paradigm, the case study presented here indicates that the Chinchorro not only had knowledge of advanced textile production techniques but they refined and standardized basic fibre processing. This knowledge included techniques known as the building blocks of weaving millennia before contact with the weavers of the highlands, who are believed to have introduced them as a part of the socio-cultural changes which occurred during the Formative period.
Tracy Martens is a PhD candidate in the Department of Culture History and Language at the Australian National University. Her dissertation, titled Fibre Artefacts from Caleta Vitor, Northern Chile is an exploration of fibre artefacts spanning 6,000 years. This work is a continuation of her Master’s (ANU) project which encompassed analytical analysis of dyed camelid fibre artefacts from Caleta Vitor as well as an isotopic analysis of those same fibres. Before undertaking her Master’s, she spent six years in the Pilbara with the Nyiyaparli, Palyku and Banjima groups and two years in northern Canada working with the Cree, Dene and Beaver groups conducting cultural heritage and traditional land use studies.
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