Foodways of the pre-Hispanic societies of the West Tinogasta region (Catamarca Province, Argentina) were inferred from stable carbon isotope analysis on bulk lipid residues from eleven archaeological ceramics recovered from sites with occupations ranging from AD 450 – 1550. Nine modern samples were analysed to obtain reference values for typical Andean ingredients. Archaeological maize use patterns can be detected by enriched 13C values typical of C4 plant carbon compounds found in cooking residues. Our preliminary results show a great variability of maize use and consumption practices which can be explained by the multiple recipes and functions a pot had during its use life resulting in organic residue ‘palimpsests’. No statistically significant correlation was observed between site chronology and isotopic signals, although we propose differential access to maize resource at the Inca site of Batungasta.
Pre-Hispanic Andean societies depended economically on the cultivation of maize (Zea mays), the main staple food crop in the region after its introduction from highland Mexico. Here we report new data from residue analysis of potsherds recovered in archaeological sites in western Tinogasta, Catamarca province, Argentina, ca. 3rd to 16th centuries AD. Molecular and isotopic (d13C values) compositions of fatty acids and microscopically identified maize starch granules from organic residues absorbed in archaeological
potsherds were compared with Andean ingredients and food residues obtained from experimental replica pots, where traditional recipes were cooked. Complex mixtures of lipids and starch remains observed in archaeological cooking pots indicated combinations of Andean ingredients such as llama, beans, algarroba, and maize, and suggest continuity in the domestic foodways through time. The distribution and d13C values of lipids preserved in vessels used for alcoholic beverage preparation, storage and transport in Inka sites suggested the possible consumption of two drinks with distinct patterns: traditional Andean maize beer (chicha) and a local fermented drink made from algarroba flour (aloja).
This is potential evidence for consumption practices in festive contexts sponsored by the Inka state.