2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 29-7
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM

RECONSTRUCTING THE CHINCHORRO PALETTE: A POSSIBLE ORIGIN FOR MANGANESE-BASED PAINT


VAN HOESEN, John, Environmental Studies, Green Mountain College, One Brennan Circle, Poultney, VT 06754, GRADY, C. Maeve, Geology Department, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, RYAN, Peter C., Dept. of Geology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753 and ARRIAZA, Bernardo, Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Calle Antofagasta 1520, Arica, 1000000, Chile, vanhoesenj@greenmtn.edu

The Chinchorro inhabited northern Chile between 7,000 and 3,000 years B.P. and represent the earliest culture to develop elaborate mummification techniques; approximately 3,000 years before the Egyptians. These techniques include an earlier Black style process, in which bodies were filled with bones, reeds, and sediment. The faces were covered with a clay mask and coated with a manganese-rich paint. The later Red Style involved filling bodies with sediment, reeds and feathers and painting the bodies bright red using ochre but the faces were still coated black using the same manganese-rich paint. The Chinchorro needed a substantial amount of relatively pure manganese to create their elaborate face masks, however the local geology of Arica and Camarones does not provide a suitable source. Suggesting that either the Chinchorro traveled beyond the currently accepted 40km range to procure this material or the original source has since been destroyed, buried or exhausted. The primary goal of this study was to characterize and evaluate potential origins for the manganese-based paint.

Exposures of the upper and lower Huaylas Formation located approximately 80-90 km from Chinchorro sites – first described by Olivares (1962) and Ossa (1970) – were analyzed for isotopic, mineralogic and elemental signatures. δ18O values are very similar for both upper Huaylas Formation and Chinchorro samples (in both cases between 0.0 and 3.0 ‰; lower Huaylas Formation samples are 8-14 ‰). XRD powder analysis indicates that both upper Huaylas Formation Mn-rich rock and Chinchorro masks are dominated by the Mn mineral cryptomelane with lesser quartz and plagioclase. ICP-OES indicates that upper Huaylas Formation Mn-rich rock and Chinchorro masks have similar concentrations of most elements (including Mn, Si, Na, K, Ca, MgO, Ba and Cu). The isotopic, mineralogical and elemental similarities are consistent with a Huaylas Formation source of mask material; however, if the upper Huaylas Formation is the origin of the manganese it presents the question: did the Chinchorro actually travel the entire ~80-90 km over tortuous, arid terrain or did they access fluvially derived cobbles within the Lluta and San José rivers valleys draining the Altiplano?