An Archaeological Sequence of Hunter-Gatherers in the Tandilia Range: Cueva Tixi, Buenas Aires, Argentina

By Mazzanti, Diana Leonis | Antiquity, June 1997 | Go to article overview

An Archaeological Sequence of Hunter-Gatherers in the Tandilia Range: Cueva Tixi, Buenas Aires, Argentina


Mazzanti, Diana Leonis, Antiquity


The site

The archaeological site of Cueva Tixi, located in

La Vigilancia range near to Mar del Plata city [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED], is a rock-shelter in a slope which can be easily reached; protected from winds, it has a perennial water-course that runs at the foot of its talus. The pampean hunter-gatherers occupied this cave, profiting from its topographic features [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED], over a time-span of more than 10,000 years. Six radiocarbon determinations (TABLE 1), obtained on charcoal at the University of Arizona AMS laboratory, confirm the chronological sequence of the site (Mazzanti 1993).

Excavations by decapage of reduced areas began in 1988, starting with an area of 15 sq. m and a depth of 80 cm. The stratigraphy is clearly defined in five strata (Figini et al. 1985: 128-30). The richness of the faunal sample of approximately 80,000 specimens is expressed in a total of 18,233 remains identified to the level of species: 38 species of mammals - cricetids and caviomorphs (hamster and guinea-pig families), rodents, dogs, foxes, cats, skunks, guanaco, deer, armadillos, small oppossums, bats; 5 species of reptiles; frogs; numerous species of small birds; fishes; sea and lake molluscs; and coral.

The sequence of occupations

The first human occupation, assigned to the Late Pleistocene, is dated by determinations of 10,045[+ or -]95 and 10,375[+ or -]90 b.p. The dated charcoal samples pertain to two burned areas associated with archaeological remains, and with autochthonous and extinct fauna. Remains of Lama guanicoe, Ozotoceros bezoarticus, Myocastor coypus, Dolichotis patagonum, Zaedius pichiy, Eutatus seguini, Canis avus and others were identified. The rocks most used in the manufacture of artefacts are either local (quartz and quartzite) or exotic (basalt and flint). Artefacts related to the production process include an anvil, hammers, cores and core-like objects; among tools of low and medium grades of manufacture, the outstanding group is of scrapers. The concentration and debitage indicate activities of preparation, primary reduction and last phase of tool manufacture were carried out in an activity area spatially coincident with other material remains that show the use of ochre, and the processing and consuming of food.

The sample from the following occupation, dated to 4865[+ or -]65 b.p., was collected in a charcoal concentration near a bone accumulation, with a large quantity of ungulate remains (Lama guanicoe and Ozotoceros bezoarticus), 11 species of rodents and 8 species of carnivores, among others. A superposition of numerous bone remains, some broken, some whole and articulated, surrounds a stone block which outcrops from the cave's floor. Almost every anatomical element of various ungulate skeletons, juvenile and adult, were found. These were probably hunted near the site. The lithic tools are of expeditious type, pieces with summary retouch and unilateral scrapers, the majority manufactured in coarse-grained quartzites. Human cranial remains can be identified as a secondary burial from their find-spot within the bone structure.

TABLE 1. Radiocarbon determinations from Cueva Tixi.

context            laboratory                      uncalibrated
                      number               determination (b. … 

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