Biocultural evidence of precise manual activities in an Early Holocene individual of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes

Fotios Alexandros Karakostis, Hugo Reyes-Centeno, Michael Franken, Gerhard Hotz, Kurt Rademaker, Katerina Harvati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: Cuncaicha, a rockshelter site in the southern Peruvian Andes, has yielded archaeological evidence for human occupation at high elevation (4,480 masl) during the Terminal Pleistocene (12,500–11,200 cal BP), Early Holocene (9,500–9,000 cal BP), and later periods. One of the excavated human burials (Feature 15-06), corresponding to a middle-aged female dated to ~8,500 cal BP, exhibits skeletal osteoarthritic lesions previously proposed to reflect habitual loading and specialized crafting labor. Three small tools found in association with this burial are hypothesized to be associated with precise manual dexterity. Materials and methods: Here, we tested this functional hypothesis through the application of a novel multivariate methodology for the three-dimensional analysis of muscle attachment surfaces (entheses). This original approach has been recently validated on both lifelong-documented anthropological samples as well as experimental studies in nonhuman laboratory samples. Additionally, we analyzed the three-dimensional entheseal shape and resulting moment arms for muscle opponens pollicis. Results: Results show that Cuncaicha individual 15-06 shows a distinctive entheseal pattern associated with habitual precision grasping via thumb-index finger coordination, which is shared exclusively with documented long-term precision workers from recent historical collections. The separate geometric morphometric analysis revealed that the individual's opponens pollicis enthesis presents a highly projecting morphology, which was found to strongly correlate with long joint moment arms (a fundamental component of force-producing capacity), closely resembling the form of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers from diverse geo-chronological contexts of Eurasia and North Africa. Discussion: Overall, our findings provide the first biocultural evidence to confirm that the lifestyle of some of the earliest Andean inhabitants relied on habitual and forceful precision grasping tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume174
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are deeply grateful to the following institutions and researchers for granting them access to fossil specimens and/or 3D data: Tel Aviv University (H. May and I. Hershkovitz), National Museum of Natural History in Paris (Grimaud-Hervé, F. Detroit, and M. Friess), and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (as well as the Museo Archeologico Del Finale and V. Sparacello for collecting data from the remains of Arene Candide). Moreover, the hand skeleton of Nazlet Khater 2 was digitized thanks to the Agence Nationale de la Recherce (ANR) project “Big Dry” (ANR-14-CE31). The authors are grateful to the coordinator F. Bon and the partners I. Crevecoeur, D. Pleurdeau, J. Lesur, and C. Tribolo for providing them with access to the virtual material of Nazlet Khater 2. The 2015 field season in Cuncaicha was funded by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, Northern Illinois University, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 2237: Project “Words, Bones, Genes, Tools: Tracking Linguistic, Cultural, and Biological Trajectories of the Human Past”). The authors thank many participants of the 2015 field season at Cuncaicha rockshelter and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture for fieldwork, collections analysis, and sample export permits (Resoluciónes Directorales #353-2015 and #900016-2018, and Resolución Viceministerial 092-2016). Marko Lopez at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture office in Arequipa, Cecilia Mauricio, and Peter Kaulicke provided invaluable assistance in exporting the Cuncaicha material for analysis in Germany. The authors thank Judith Beier, Abel Bosman, María López Sosa, Carolin Röding, and Panagiotis Zodos for assistance with curation of the Cuncaicha skeletal material. The authors also thank the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, for access to scanning instrumentation that was made available through a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG CO226/20-1). Special thanks should be given to the volunteers of the “Citizen Science Project Basel Spitalfriedhof” (Universität Basel), for their important work on the detailed documentation of this study's reference sample. Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Funding Information:
The authors are deeply grateful to the following institutions and researchers for granting them access to fossil specimens and/or 3D data: Tel Aviv University (H. May and I. Hershkovitz), National Museum of Natural History in Paris (Grimaud‐Hervé, F. Detroit, and M. Friess), and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (as well as the Museo Archeologico Del Finale and V. Sparacello for collecting data from the remains of Arene Candide). Moreover, the hand skeleton of Nazlet Khater 2 was digitized thanks to the Agence Nationale de la Recherce (ANR) project “Big Dry” (ANR‐14‐CE31). The authors are grateful to the coordinator F. Bon and the partners I. Crevecoeur, D. Pleurdeau, J. Lesur, and C. Tribolo for providing them with access to the virtual material of Nazlet Khater 2. The 2015 field season in Cuncaicha was funded by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, Northern Illinois University, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 2237: Project “Words, Bones, Genes, Tools: Tracking Linguistic, Cultural, and Biological Trajectories of the Human Past”). The authors thank many participants of the 2015 field season at Cuncaicha rockshelter and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture for fieldwork, collections analysis, and sample export permits (Resoluciónes Directorales #353‐2015 and #900016‐2018, and Resolución Viceministerial 092‐2016). Marko Lopez at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture office in Arequipa, Cecilia Mauricio, and Peter Kaulicke provided invaluable assistance in exporting the Cuncaicha material for analysis in Germany. The authors thank Judith Beier, Abel Bosman, María López Sosa, Carolin Röding, and Panagiotis Zodos for assistance with curation of the Cuncaicha skeletal material. The authors also thank the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, for access to scanning instrumentation that was made available through a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG CO226/20‐1). Special thanks should be given to the volunteers of the “Citizen Science Project Basel Spitalfriedhof” (Universität Basel), for their important work on the detailed documentation of this study's reference sample. Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Funding Information:
Alexander von Humboldt‐Stiftung; Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Grant/Award Numbers: DFG CO226/20‐1, DFG FOR 2237; Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History; Northern Illinois University; Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú Funding information

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. American Journal of Physical Anthropology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

Keywords

  • Andes
  • Early Holocene
  • entheses
  • muscle attachments
  • opponens pollicis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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