|Carol A. Schultze, et al., report that archaeological excavations at a U-shaped pyramid in the northern Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru have documented a continuous 5-m-deep stratigraphic sequence of metalworking remains. The sequence begins in the first millennium AD and ends in the Spanish Colonial period ca. AD 1600. The earliest dates associated with silver production are 1960 40 BP (2-sigma cal. and 40 BC to AD 120) and 1870 40 BP (2-sigma cal. AD 60 to 240) representing the oldest known silver smelting in South America. |
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) analysis of production debris indicate a complex, multistage, high temperature technology for producing silver throughout the archaeological sequence. These data hold significant theoretical implications including the following: (i) silver production occurred before the development of the first southern Andean state of Tiwanaku, (ii) the location and process of silver working remained consistent for 1,500 years even though political control of the area cycled between expansionist states and smaller polities, and (iii) that U-shaped structures were the location of ceremonial, residential, and industrial activities.