Sapiens reports on archaeological research in Peru by Sandweiss, alumnus

Sapiens reported on archaeological research in Peru by Daniel Sandweiss, a professor of anthropology and quaternary and climate studies at the University of Maine, and Kurt Rademaker, a UMaine alumnus and archaeologist with Northern Illinois University. Sapiens is a journal published by Wenner Gren, a large foundation supporting anthropology. Sandweiss and Rademaker, along with other researchers, are excavating the Quebrada Jaguay site in the Andes, in search of evidence to inform insights into the life of early humans in South America and their migration to other parts of the world. Sandweiss had studied the site in the 1990s and found promising evidence. But returning in 2017, Rademaker found the site partially destroyed and almost unrecognizable. This is common for archaeological sites, which can change drastically as a result of economic development and environmental factors. Sites from this time are scarce, so “it’s worth going back even for that tiny amount of [material],” said Rademaker. “Until we find more, going back to [previously excavated] sites is the only option we’ve got.” The researchers are hoping to draw conclusions from a combination of archaeology, geology, paleoenvironmental studies, and other areas. The team’s efforts could contribute to evidence suggesting that the earliest humans inhabited South America 12,000 years ago or earlier, longer ago than previously thought, and could have migrated from Asia to the Americas even earlier, according to Sapiens. “People either moved along the coast and then went inland, moved along the highlands and then to the coast, or both … [But] we don’t have a lot of dots to connect,” said Sandweiss. “Archaeological sites are sedimentary archives, and they’re a finite resource. If we lose them, we don’t just lose what we can do with them now — we lose what we could ever do with them in the future,” said Rademaker. Pacific Standard magazine also published the article.