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Radiocarbon chronometry of Site QJ-280, Quebrada Jaguay, a terminal Pleistocene to early Holocene fishing site in southern Peru

September 13, 2018

Excavations in 1970, 1996, and 1999 at Site QJ-280, Quebrada Jaguay, in southern Peru, yielded enough dateable terrestrial plant material to establish an extensive radiocarbon chronology for the site. QJ-280 is one of oldest well-dated fishing sites in the Americas: it was occupied from the terminal Pleistocene to the mid-Holocene (about 13,000–8,300 calibrated years BP) based on 42 terrestrial radiocarbon dates, encompassing the Jaguay and Machas Phases of the local archaeological sequence. In addition to the terrestrial dates, radiocarbon measurements on valves of two marine surf clam (Mesodesma donacium) individuals from a single, well-dated mid-Holocene Manos Phase archaeological context have provided insight into marine upwelling conditions during the occupation of Quebrada Jaguay. The marine reservoir age varied between 130 and 730 14C years during the brief lives of the two clams (up to 5 years each), and varied by up to 530 14C years within an individual valve, suggesting strong and variable deep marine upwelling; conditions broadly similar to those that exist in coastal Peru today. These rapid variations in marine radiocarbon age suggest that marine radiocarbon dates from environments with variable upwelling could be skewed by up to hundreds of years.

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