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17 March 2004
4,000-year-old skeleton in Tierra del Fuego

Anthropologists and geologists from the Austral Scientific Research Centre have discovered the body of an adult who lived on the north coast of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) 4,000 years ago. “The body is very well preserved, totally articulate, with complete denture,” said anthropologist Monica Saleme. The skeleton, found beneath a 3,900-year-old ‘conchero’ (shell pit), may be the oldest so far discovered in the region. Shell middens of this type are quite common and indicate the sites of temporary habitations where hunter-gatherers would settle for several months at a time to feed on molluscs and other sea foods, and take time to make implements. The dating corresponds to the time of the world’s highest sea levels – the burial is now almost 3,000 meters from the present coastline.
     The 1.7m body was buried in the foetal position on its right side, with the left hand under the head and knees close to the chest. Tools and utensils dating back 12,600 years and thought to have been produced by the selk-nam ona tribe have been found in Tierra del Fuego, but no human remains from so early a date. “We can’t say if [the skeleton] belongs to a selk-nam, although they inhabited the area,” says Saleme. The remains have now been taken to the main ASRC Cadic laboratory for further examination and DNA tests. Researchers are interested in the different migrations into Tierra del Fuego during the Holocene and the DNA tests will determine the body’s migratory origin.

Source: MercoPress (17 March 2004)

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