Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On the Horizon

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On the Horizon

Article excerpt

Advanced culture in Uruguay

The discovery of a 4,000-year-old farming village in Uruguay is challenging current theories of how complex cultures developed in South America.

The Los Ajos site, located on the Atlantic coast near Uruguay's border with Brazil, includes 15 mound complexes. They contain evidence that residents farmed maize, squash, and beans. In addition, over the years, Los Ajos was altered in ways that suggest that the region was more densely populated at the time than previously believed.

The find is startling because the region traditionally has been written off as archaeologically marginal, say the archaeologists from the United States and Uruguay who uncovered the site. The work, other researchers say, adds to a growing body of evidence that is confounding long-held notions that complex cultures in South America emerged from a central region on the Pacific coast and in nearby Andean highland valleys, then spread to the rest of the continent.

Beyond its assault on conventional wisdom, Los Ajos also suggests that evidence for complex prehistoric cultures also may emerge from other parts of the continent thought "marginal," notes University of Binghamton anthropologist Peter Stahl.

The team from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Florida Institute of Technology, and three Uruguayan institutes reported their results in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.

Cicadas: a 'party' for forests

They came by the billions to the eastern US in May and June - small, cacophonous, winged bugs called "periodic" cicadas. Every 17 years they emerge from underground in landscape- shrouding droves, reproduce, then die.

For humans, the cicada party is annoying. But new research suggests North American forests love it.

Other researchers already had observed a curious increase in forest wood growth in years following cicada infestations. So, in field tests during three successive years when the bugs emerged in different parts of the East, Louie Yang, with the Center for Population Biology at the University of California at Davis, looked at the effects of deceased cicadas. …

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