The pre-columbian peoples of Peru were more diverse than we ever imagined, claims a team of anthropologists from the United States. Their findings come as support for the theory that there was significant variation before Europeans arrived on the scene.
The team of anthropologists studied the skulls of pre-Columbian skeletons searching for small but important differences. These differences help scientists understand where people came from, who their ancestors were in other words, and how these people interacted. Forensic analysis is an important tool in archaeology and is opening new windows of understanding the past.
Until recently, historians and anthropologists maintained that the Americas were populated by peoples who arrived via the Bering Strait from Asia. It was believed that little or no contact was made with the Americas until Columbus and that there was little difference in diversity. Ann Ross, co-author of the study and a forensic anthropologist with North Carolina State University, explains that her study contributes to the growing pile of evidence that this was not the case. “For a long time, the conventional wisdom was that there was very little variation prior to European contact. Our work shows that there was actually significant variation,” said Ross.
Ross and her team of anthropologists focused on the facial features of over 500 skulls of the Yauyos, Ancon, Cajamarca, Jahuay, Makatampu, Malabrigo and Pacatnumu peoples of Peru who thrived from the first to fifteenth centuries.
They discovered that the greater distance between peoples, the greater the difference between their facial features. “The Yauyos had facial features that were very different even from other peoples in the same region,” explained Ross.