Monday, 08 Dec, 2008 Environment
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Ancient Tribes Celebrated on Grave Sites

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A new research in South America showed that ancient tribes organized celebrations and barbeques right on the graves of their departed chiefs. Archeologists excavated a large number of ovens built on the place of burial hills. The findings date back to the 12th and 13th century.

"After they buried an important person on the burial grounds, they feasted on meat that had been steamed in the earth ovens and drank maize beer," said Jose Iriarte, study co-author.

The ovens were created across the generations and built in such a way that they surrounded burial mounds and included paths directed to the center.

"This monumental tradition spread across kilometers, from southern Sao Paulo state in Brazil to Rio Grande del Sur in Argentina," explained Iriarte, who teaches archaeology at the University of Exeter. Iriarte added that people inhabiting that area used to drink liquors made of honey and maize and that they performed their festivities in the year when pine nuts and maize were plentiful.

As evidence, researchers presented bowls and other vessels used for drinking. These vessels showed presence of corn remains. They also found remnants of animals which haven't been identified yet. Detailed information about this discovery is presented in the journal Antiquity.

It was traditionally believed that the population was small in number and led a nomadic life. However, Iriarte considers that in the context of recent discoveries this theory is not supported by facts. As he stated the population was quite numerous and lived within the limits of one region.

It should be mentioned that, aside from ovens, archeologists also discovered big underground houses supplied with roofs. According to Iriarte, an expert in culture of people, that region was an attractive place for settlers as it abounded with different kinds of plants and animals. he outlined that settlers managed to mix hunting and gathering, horticulture, fishing, as well as slash-and-burn agriculture so they could maintain large populations.

Michael Heckenberger, a professor from the University of Florida, confirmed that environmental conditions in the South of Brazil were considered unfavorable for the life of large settlements. Nevertheless he considers that Iriarte together with his team proved that those tribes were far from being marginal.

Heckenberger said that celebrations held by could be described as permanent and active in comparison with other peoples inhabiting the region.

The burial ceremonies were held when eminent chiefs passed away. In this case the son of the chief was supposed to make a feast for everybody. In such a way he paid a tribute to his ancestors and confirmed his social status.

The research was supported by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration.

Iriarte discovered in his study that burial mounds built by the served to defend the boarders of the territory from the tribes migrating through the highlands of Argentina and Brazil.

Posted by sharaeff

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