Many ancient cultures revered red, the color of blood and historically associated with danger, courage, and sacrifice. Thousands of years ago in South America, ancient Andean artists happened upon an extremely vivid red dye: cochineal. The use of cochineal continues today, along with lots of controversy.
In the past century, manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers with ammonia has been explosive (even literally...). Increases in crop production from manufactured fertilizers have benefited tens of millions of people. Unfortunately, this fertilizer produces tremendous waste in an inefficient process that is highly polluting; we could lower global use with alternative methods. Over 500 years ago, the Incas implemented laws to conserve their valuable guano fertilizer.
Celebrations of the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, involve traditions to remember and honor deceased family members and friends. In this post we examine a few customs around death, beginning with the mummification practices of ancient Andeans and ending with a street parade in Mexico City, inspired by the death-defying feats of James Bond.
Dogs have been human companions for thousands of years. As the first animal species domesticated, dogs altered human relationships with the natural world and profoundly influenced the course of early human history. New data indicate that dogs most likely accompanied the first explorers as they traveled southward from Siberia and fanned out across the Americas.
Machu Picchu is truly one of the wonders of the world. The spectacular ridge-top site of this city and the fine masonry of royal Inca buildings are stunning aesthetic and technical accomplishments. Early Spanish chroniclers reported "molten gold" was used as mortar during stone block construction, and a research paper by a chemist presents some intriguing insights.
For thousands of years the ancient Andean people revered gold and created exquisite gold art objects. This ultimately led to the fall of the Inca Empire when the metal lured Spanish conquistadores high into the Andes. Gold continues to be mined today, with adverse consequences for the environment and many Andean people.
We recognize an extremely long and rich tradition of fiber arts from the Andes Mountains -- possibly the longest continuous history of fiber use found on earth. From exquisite embroidered shrouds used to wrap mummies many thousands of years ago, to the finely woven tapestry tunics worn by Inca royalty, the artistry of these textiles is exceptional.
El Niños, the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, could be devastating for ancient Andean societies. Direct evidence of these events is scarce, but clever archaeological sleuthing has revealed details of event recurrence – and desperate measures taken by authorities to stop destructive flooding.
El Niño and La Niña weather patterns profoundly affect human societies – today, as well as during the past few thousands of years, especially in the strongly affected Peruvian Andes. Both are part of the climate pattern named the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
Five hundred years ago the Inca Empire stretched across the Andes Mountains of South America, encompassing arid coastal deserts, snow-covered mountains, and humid rainforests.... Since the empire fell in the 16th century, there is something that no subsequent government ruling over this territory has successfully achieved.