La Paz: The discovery of mollusk shells at a midden in the Bolivian Amazon indicates that hunter-gatherers had a presence in the area 10,400 years ago, much earlier than previously known, archaeologists said.
The find was made near the Amazonian city of Trinidad, which borders Brazil, by an international scientific team led by Italian geographer Umberto Lombardo of the University of Bern and Bolivian archaeologist Jose Capriles of the University of San Andres in La Paz.
The team conducted digs in three "forest islands" spread across pastures in the Moxos plains and found "shell mounds", which were created when hunter-gatherers discarded shells, Capriles told EFE Monday.
Systematic digs were conducted at three shell mounds, but the specialists said there were hundreds of more sites spread out across the islands, which were small forests amid the plains.
"The challenge for the research was to demonstrate that these accumulations had been made by human beings and not, let's say, by other agents, such as birds or other animals. The evidence appears to us to be very strong after much analysis," Capriles said.
The project, which is being funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, has raised many questions about human settlement in the Amazon.
The digs will continue until 2014 so scientists can find more evidence, such as burial sites, of the earliest human settlers of the region.