Skip to comments.Dung-eating mites throw light on Inca civilisation
Posted on 03/26/2007 3:23:03 AM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
Dung-eating mites throw light on Inca civilisation
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Mites that eat llama dung are providing scientists with critical new clues to the rise and fall of the Inca empire and the civilisations that preceded it.
The soil invertebrates are allowing researchers to trace the growth and decline of the peoples of the Andes several centuries before the Spanish conquest in 1532 brought written records to the region for the first time.
The evidence gleaned from fossilised mites, preserved in sediments at a lake about 50km (30 miles) from the Inca capital of Cuzco, has shown how the great empire increased in size and complexity in the early 15th century.
The abundance of the fossil mites is directly linked to the amount of llama dung that was deposited on the pastures around Lake Maracocha at particular times, and can thus be used as a proxy for estimating the size of the herds and pack trains that grazed there.
From this a team led by Alex Chepstow-Lusty, of Montpellier University in France, has been able to reconstruct the fluctuating fortunes of local populations for an era from which no written records exist.
The new research suggests that after a period of sharp growth, the Inca civilisations power had already started to wane immediately before the arrival of Francisco Pizarros conquistadors. This could reflect the advent of European diseases to which indigenous people and livestock had no resistance. Even further back in history, the mite records also show how two earlier civilisations, the Whari and the Tiwanaku, moved higher into the Andes as temperatures rose during the 11th century, then declined, partly because of prolonged drought.
Dr Chepstow-Lusty said that the mite evidence opened a valuable new window on a period that has always been difficult to study because Andean civilisations never developed forms of record-keeping.
We dont have any historical documents before the Spanish arrived, and we have had to rely on archaeology and evidence from things like pollen and charcoal, Dr Chepstow-Lusty said. What we have now is a new tool that can be used directly to study large herbivore populations, which in this part of the world are intimately linked to humans.
In a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, his team has shown how mite numbers rise and fall in concert with well-documented socio-economic changes in the postconquest period. When the Spanish arrived, the Inca seem already to have been in some kind of decline, Dr Chepstow-Lusty said.
How invertebrates followed the empire
c1100 AD Whari and Tiwanaku civilisations start to decline. First major dip in the mite record from Lake Maracocha seen
c1200 Inca civilisation starts growing in Cuzco region
c1400 First signs of Inca expansion in mite record
c1438 Dramatic expansion of Inca empire; dramatic increase in the number of mites found at Maracocha
1525 Death of Huayna Capac provokes civil war between his sons, Huascar and Atahualpa. Mite data suggests decline
1532 First encounter between Francisco Pizarro and Atahualpa at Cajamarca, at which 168 Spaniards defeat Inca army and kidnap Atahualpa
1533 Murder of Atahualpa by the Spanish, followed by a rapid depopulation of the region because of smallpox and other diseases
1544-45 Two thirds of llamas in Cuzco area die of llama mange, a skin disease imported by the Spanish. Further fall in mite numbers
1572 Defeat of Tupac Amaru, the last Inca leader to resist Spanish rule
c1600 Reestablishment of rural communities in the region. Mite numbers begin to rise again
1719 Plague strikes Ollantaytambo region, with one hacienda reporting the loss of almost all indigenous workers. Mite numbers fall again
My first thought was this was about Hillary and Obama.
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Ideas are that they mooched off the two civilizations which preceded them in the area, much how the Aztecs are considered to have mooched off the Toltecs and other cultures in the region after migrating there from what is now the western United States.
All of those Llamas must have caused global warming.
Al Gore would have known what to do.
Dung-eating mites = Schumer, Durbin, Leahy, Waxman, Boxer, Waters, Conyers...
Dung eating mites?
The collapse of a nation from within with the legalization and acceptence of queers.
Great name for a rock group.
I saw "dung eating mites" and thought of the haughty Myan professor that Mel cussed out!
Say no more......
The Romans mooched off the Greeks.
Tards are always ready to immediately blame the 'evil white man' for things they didnt cause.....
Yes they were (evil white men) (Spanish), armed with the latest of (military technology), who also brought(European diseases)with them and caused the single most devastating loss of life in the Americas. Killing off indigenous people (Inca), and livestock, (llama)as well. I doubt those civil wars had much to do with the deaths of tens of millions.
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Spain, the gift that keeps on giving.
Never heard of the Butthole Surfers?
They're full of crap!
I find these stories fascinating, but "dung mites" just isn't a career path I can get into. :-))
"The epidemic of cocoliztli from1545 to 1548 killed an estimated 5 million to 15 million people, or up to 80% of the native population of Mexico (Figure 1). In absolute and relative terms the 1545 epidemic was one of the worst demographic catastrophes in human history, approaching even the Black Death of bubonic plague, which killed approximately 25 million in western Europe from 1347 to 1351 or about 50% of the regional population.
The cocoliztli epidemic from 1576 to 1578 cocoliztli epidemic killed an additional 2 to 2.5 million people, or about 50% of the remaining native population. Newly introduced European and African diseases such as smallpox, measles, and typhus have long been the suspected cause of the population collapse in both 1545 and 1576 because both epidemics preferentially killed native people. But careful reanalysis of the 1545 and 1576 epidemics now indicates that they were probably hemorrhagic fevers, likely caused by an indigenous virus and carried by a rodent host.
Did the Inca's diseases kill off the Spanish too?
Ahem, 'White' people may have been the first to the Americas.
"The oldest human remains found in the Americas were recently "discovered" in the storeroom of Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. Found in central Mexico in 1959, the five skulls were radiocarbon dated by a team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Mexico and found to be 13,000 years old. They pre-date the Clovis culture by a couple thousand years, adding to the growing evidence against the Clovis-first model for the first peopling of the Americas."
Of additional significance is the shape of the skulls, which are described as long and narrow, very unlike those of modern Native Americans.
Well, where the hell were these mites when I was doing my paper on Inca civilization? I could have used some help!
Caused by pre-Incan SUV's no doubt.
Gives yet another point of reference to the rising temperature in the Northern Hemisphere leading to the colonization of Greenland and later North America, occuring about the same time.
Unless, of course, you want to blame it on Incan SUVs, CFC's from the Incan's refrigerators, and llama farts.
"Even further back in history, the mite records also show how two earlier civilisations, the Whari and the Tiwanaku, moved higher into the Andes as temperatures rose during the 11th century, then declined, partly because of prolonged drought."
Drought raises temperatures? I thought it was the other way around.
Are we now to suspect that global warming may be caused by dung mites?
Dung-eating mites - always have a certain grin on their tiny little faces...
Not to be confused with dust mites:
[llama] "pull my hoof".