Archaeologists discover Americas' oldest gold artifact

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Washington, April 1 : Archaeologists have discovered a nine-bead necklace in Peru dating back to 2100 B.C., which is believed to be the oldest known gold artifact in the Americas.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest known gold artifacts in the New World were found in central Peru and the Andean highlands at sites dated to around 1500 to 1410 B.C.

A report in National Geographic News stated that the artifact was uncovered in a burial pit near Lake Titicaca next to the jawbone of an adult skull.

This burial pit is near the ancient settlement of Jiskairumoko, which dates back to 3300 B.C.

According to Mark Aldenderfer, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, US, the beads were hammered from gold nuggets and suggest the development of an early sedentary culture.

"What this discovery is really telling us is that the people who were living at this site were undergoing a rather profound social and economic transition towards sedentary life," said Aldenderfer.

"Once that process starts, a lot of the social rules of life when you're a hunter-gatherer change dramatically such that different kinds of institutions are beginning to be created," he added.

Aldenderfer and his colleagues dated the site using a fragment of wood charcoal found in association with the burial.

According to researchers, the bones found in the pit belong to a female, because all the other burials at the site from this time frame are of women.

"We're fairly certain this necklace was used as a real mark of high status for this individual," said Aldenderfer.

"That doesn't mean they were an important political leader, but it does mean that the individual had a certain level of prestige and connections to the world to be able to obtain this necklace," he added.

But, according to John Hoopes, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, the main implication of this discovery is that gold was being used for ornamentation before the appearance of complex social organization.

"The people of Jiskairumoko apparently valued gold because it was a pretty, noncorroding, malleable material," he said.

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