Plant Use in the Platform-Chamber Complex: a Paleoethnobotanical Study of Structure 1 at Alto Pukara, Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia, 400-800 BCE

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Located on the Taraco Peninsula on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the Bolivian Altiplano, Alto Pukara was a Middle Formative site inhabited between 400 and 800 BCE by the Chiripa peoples. Alto Pukara is the smallest site on the peninsula centered around its own platform chamber complex consisting of two raised structures. This study used paleoethnobotanical methods to investigate the foodways of the people of Alto Pukara and data from 84 analyzed samples suggested that the local cuisine was primarily based on staples of quinoa and tubers. The food was prepared using camelid dung that was burned to fuel cooking fires. Moreover, when compared to published data from paleoethnobotanical research conducted at the peninsula’s preeminent site of Chiripa, this study found that the cuisine was very similar with a few exceptions. The locals inhabiting Alto Pukara, for example, made greater use of the newly domesticated oca (Oxalis tuberosa L.) than those in the main settlement of Chiripa. The study also identified two main activities that occurred in Structure 1 of the Platform Chamber Complex. The first is ritual feasting outside the structure on the raised platform. The second is the cooking of foods and ritual activities inside the structure. This reinforces evidence from Robin Beck’s architectural analysis of the site that suggested Alto Pukara’s platform chamber complex functioned as a location for ritual events to tie the inhabitants of the site with their ancestors.

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