Artificial intelligence to study the ancient inhabitants of Patagonia

Artificial intelligence to study the ancient inhabitants of Patagonia

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The presence of humans in the American continent dates back at least 14,500 years, according to the dates made in archaeological sites such as Monte Verde, in the Lake District of Chile.

But the first settlers they kept moving toward the southernmost reaches of America.

Now, researchers from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) of Argentina and two Spanish institutions (the Higher Council for Scientific Research and the University of Burgos) have analyzed the relationships between types of mobility and technology used by those original societies in the southern tip of Patagonia.

[Tweet «#Archeology - Through algorithms the technological‘ landscape ’of the nautical hunter-gatherer groups and that of the pedestrians has been identified”]

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, part of an extensive database with all the archaeological evidence available on human presence in this region, since the first groups arrived in the early Holocene (12,000 years ago) until the end of the s. XIX.

Afterwards, techniques of maching learning, a statistical system that allows the computer to learn from many data (in this case, big data of technological elements characteristic of the deposits) in order to make classifications and predictions.

“By means of automatic classification algorithms we have identified two technological packages or 'landscapes': one that characterizes the pedestrian hunter-gatherer groups (with their own lithic and bone tools) and the other those that had nautical technology, such as canoes, harpoons and shells of mollusk that they used to make necklace beads ”, explains Ivan Briz i Godino, archaeologist from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) of Argentina and co-author of the work.

"In future excavations, when sets of technological elements such as the ones we have detected appear, we will be able to directly deduce the type of mobility of the group or the connections with other communities", adds Briz.

Maps with technological ‘landscapes’

The results of the study have also allowed obtain maps with the settlements of the two communities, which, in turn, has made it possible to locate large regions in which they interacted and shared their technological knowledge.

In the case of groups with nautical technology, it has been confirmed that they arrived from Holocene half (about 6,000 years ago) from the channels and islands of the South Pacific, moving along the coast of what is now Chile.

“Traditional archeology characterizes the sites, the societies and their possible contacts on the basis of singular elements selected by specialists (such as designs of weapon tips or decorative elements), but here we show that it is more interesting to analyze sets of technological elements as a whole, using artificial intelligence techniques that allow working with large volumes of data and without subjective biases ”, concludes Briz.

Bibliographic reference:

Ivan Briz i Godino, Virginia Ahedo,, Myrian Álvarez, Nélida Pal, Lucas Turnes, José Ignacio Santos, Débora Zurro, Jorge Caro and José Manuel Galán. “Hunter - gatherer mobility and technological landscapes in southernmost South America: a statistical learning approach”. Royal Society Open Science, October 2018.

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