Argentina and Patagonia November 2010

 

I was invited, by Laura Miotti  and Nora Flegenheimer (they also led the field trip), to a conference in La Plata, Argentina focused on the peopling of the New World.  I gave two presentations. The first, Aukward Proposal detailed Dennis Stanford’s and my theory of the Solutrean Origin for early people in eastern North America, and how this may have led to colonization of South America (at least in part).  The second presentation concerned a useful method, Dynamic System Analysis, that may be used to compare two or more flaked stone technologies.  While there was hesitation concerning how Ice Age people could have travelled across the North Atlantic, the theory was generally well received.  After the conference, seven of us went on an extended field trip that took us to Bariloche at the base of the Andes.  After arrival in Bariloche we went directly into central Patagonia, a high desert region with volcanic mountains and scattered brackish and dry lakes, some of which supported large numbers of birds, including flamingos.  On the 6 hour bus ride over dirt roads (they are the main roads in this part of the country) we traversed many landscapes including a beautiful river valley (the fishing is supposed to be excellent).  After a night in the town of Maquinchao, we visited early archaeological sites including a source of chalcedony that had been exploited and may have been used for some of the points at the site of Dos Amigos. The Dos Amigos Paleoindian location is on top of an isolated mesa, where a large number of ‘Cola de Pescado’ [fishtail] points] have been found.  The site has been investigated and was probably a retooling hunting camp and overlook.  While there, we spent some time surface hunting and we found a number of points.  Most were basal fragments and quite a few were fluted.  I was lucky to have found 6.  We also set a record-  Kelly Graf found a fluted base fragment and earlier in the summer had found a fluted point in Alaska at the Serpentine Springs site.  She must surly be the only one to have found fluted points so far south and north!  All artifacts were duly recorded and collected for further study.  It is uncanny how similar the Dos Amigos site resembles some of the early sites in Alaska (such as the Mesa Site).  We were treated to a lunch of roast kid and the son of the cook showed us an armadillo he had caught.  There was quite a group on the Dos Amigos visit.  Along with our group we were joined by some local people as well as the family that made our lunch.  The last night of our trip in Maquinchao we were treated to a spectacular sunset.  We returned to Bariloche where we visited various sights and one archaeological rock shelter site (Trébol). Excavations revealed multiple occupations, the oldest dating about 10,000 years ago.  Below this was a paleontological layer with sloth bones etc.  We were given an excellent tour by the excavator, Adán Hajduk, who also gave us a natural history tour of the area.  I saw 3 condors flying very high in the sky, but they were too far away to photograph.  We saw quite a variety of wild animals on our travels including nutria, armadillos, hares, guanacos, ibis, caracaras, hawks, unidentified brown birds and rheas.

 

Upon return from the field trip I spent a day in Buenos Aires and gave a flintknapping presentation at the University.  The only downside of the trip was I was pick pocketed on the way to the University.  This was inconvenient but there was no long term damage done.  From there I took the overnight bus down to Necochea where Nora lives and works.  She took a group of us on a field trip into the Pampas to see some Paleoindian sites where she has worked.  One, El Sombrero, closely resembled the Dos Amigos site as it sits on top of a high isolated mesa overlooking a huge area.  It also produced an assemblage of ‘Cola de Pescado’ points and other flaked stone artifacts.  It was quite a climb and there is only one place where the top is accessible without aid of ropes.  We also visited a source of sugary quartzite where there was evidence of quarrying.   Following this, most of us spent three relaxing days at Nora’s family ranch flintknapping.  We set up near the hacienda under a tree (the spot became known as Alla Talla [pronounced ah-zhah tah-zhah] and I gave group and individual instruction as well as tried out the stone types from the region.  Finally, the trip ended with me staying over night with Nora and family in Necochea with visits in and around town (there is a beautiful sand beach) and to Nora’s lab.  Then I took the over night bus back to Buenos Aires and a trip to the airport for a flight to Saő Paulo and an overnight to London.