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Pre-Hispanic tribes in South America had BBQs and parties at cemeteries

By Staff

Washington, Dec 6 (ANI): A new archaeological study has indicated that some pre-Hispanic cultures in South America had elaborate celebrations at their cemeteries, complete with feasting and drinking grounds much like modern barbecue pits.

According to a report in National Geographic News, excavations of 12th and 13th century burial mounds in the highlands of Brazil and Argentina revealed numerous earthen ovens.

The finds suggest that the graves were also sites of regular festivals held to commemorate the death of the community's chief.

"After they buried an important person on the burial grounds, they feasted on meat that had been steamed in the earth ovens and drank maize beer," said archaeologist and study co-author Jose Iriarte, a professor of archaeology at the University of Exeter in the U.K. Large rings of raised earth surround the mounds, with paths leading to their centers. The rings are composed of a series of the ovens, which were built up over generations.

"This monumental tradition spread across kilometers, from southern Sao Paulo state in Brazil to Rio Grande del Sur in Argentina," said Iriarte.

The Jee people, who occupied the area Iriarte during the 12th and 13th centuries, are recorded as having often consumed an alcoholic beverage of maize and honey.

"They carried out these festivities in a period of the year when pine nuts (eaten at celebrations) and maize were abundant," said Iriarte. "These were important resources to them," he added.

Researchers found ceramic vessels such as bowls and small drinking cylinders that still contained residues of corn.

Unidentifiable animal remains were also discovered.

Archaeologists traditionally viewed the Jee people as small, nomadic groups. But, these discoveries prove that theory wrong, according to Iriarte.

"This is an unexpected development in this part of southern America," he said. "We think we are in the presence of a sizable, regionally organized population," he added.

"This is part of a growing body of research that shows that groups of people in lowlands in Brazil had large, socially complex groupings, sociopolitical organization and social patterns including feasting," said Michael Heckenberger, an archaeologist and anthropologist at the University of Florida.

The new evidence also shows that, opposed to other peoples in the region, the Jee had settlements and celebrations that were more dynamic and permanent, Heckenberger added.

Other evidence has shown that the burial parties were reserved for renowned chiefs, who inherited their leadership positions, demonstrating "a moderate degree of political complexity," said Iriarte. (ANI)

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