Scientists unearth details of prehistoric Chilean society

With artifacts dating back 11,000 years, a hunting community was one of the first groups to inhabit Chile.


Just weeks after the discovery of an impressively large collection of whale fossils in the Atacama Desert, new information has been revealed about another significant archaeological find in Chile’s north.

Scientists working at a site 22 miles (35 km) inland from the coastal town of Los Vilos – halfway between Santiago and La Serena – have reported that it was once inhabited by one of the first peoples in the Americas.

Dubbed El Valiente (The Brave), the remarkable site is believed to have been a prehistoric camping ground with artifacts and remains dating back 11,000 years.

Archaeologists from the Universidad de Chile have been working at El Valiente for two years with funding from the National Science and Technology Development Fund (FONECYT), and now they are starting to develop a picture of the society that inhabited Chile’s Coquimbo Region thousands of years ago.

Lead investigator Donald Jackson told La Tercera that the site was located in an area with a rich supply of quartz, which the nomadic hunting community used to make tools and weapons. He said  numerous quartz knives and small projectiles have been unearthed in the area around the site.

Included among the findings is a 1.6 inch (4cm) spearhead in the shape of a fish tail that would have been used to hunt for milodons, an extinct herbivorous mammal, and guanacos, which are related to llamas.

The experts working at the El Valiente site believe it was one of several camping spots used by the prehistoric hunters as they moved throughout the Coquimbo Region.

“They were a group of hunters who were constantly on the move,” Jackson said in his interview with La Tercera. “They were permanently in movement, setting up small campsites. They would make their tools and then they would move on.”

The El Valiente site was particularly well preserved because of its relative isolation, Jackson added.

Another site with artifacts dating back 12,000 years was found near the Los Vilos coast in 2007. Known among archaeologists as the Quebrada de Santa Julia, this campsite was inhabited by a group of hunter gatherers who used to feed on an extinct prehistoric horse species.

This group also took advantage the region’s abundant quartz supply to make their tools.