Monte Verde: Ancient charm of Chile



Nestled in northern Patagonia is the archaeological site called Monte Verde that stretches in a partially decayed foliaged (peat) marsh accessible from Santiago after traveling for 500 miles. Discovered recently in 1997, the site pre-dates the establishment of the Clovis culture (a prehistoric Paleo-Indian one), which has fractured the basis on which the modern archaeologists have grasped about how the American continent was inhabited. According to the believed theory on how people settled in America, the Clovis culture is regarded as the America’s first culture. However, this theory has received a set back because of the existence of Preclovis sites such as Monte Verde, Paisley Caves, and Arlington Springs all of which leading finally to the acceptance of Preclovis.

Coming back to Monte Verde, its ruins are really well preserved. As per the outcome of 30 years of research, the relics occupy the upper levels called Monte Verde II. These relics signify a small settlement featuring not more than 12 huts as well as tents made for 20 to 30 people who lived at one location for a year with wide collecting, fishing, and hunting skills. This indicates about the typical living style of the initial American colonists. Besides huts and tents, extinct llama, an array of vegetables, nuts, shellfish, and most surprisingly a still-identifiable mass of mastodon meat have been found here, which logically point out to their diet. Besides these things, a single footprint believed to be of a small child can still be seen near a fireside. In addition, a set of radiocarbon along with the charcoal as well as bone from the hearths have revealed that Monte Verde is some 13,000 to 14,000 years ago rendering it one of the most ancient, but well-settled civilizations in America.

Preservation as an outcome of its location inside a gallery peat bayou on a small creek tributary’s alluvial terrace was really noteworthy. Everything can be seen in the site levels – seeds, plants, leaves, mortars, wooden lances, digging sticks, countless stone tools, soft tissues, and animal bones. Besides these artifacts, there are relics of two hut structures indicated by a relic of tent peg in wood, foundations and floors, and over 20 hearths as well as braziers. A majority of the structures seen today were tent-like edifices structures, such as the one illustrated in the photo.

One more worth looking structure at Monte Verde II is the Medicinal Hut that possesses a wish-bone shaped foundation due to which it is called so currently. Inside this hut, preserved pieces of seaweed leaves of the Pacific along with the nine plant species were found, which the residents might have cultivated in the intertidal pools as well as on the rocky coastlines besides the Seno de Reloncavi estuary. Out of these nine species, two of them are not apt for eating, but are just fine to be used for medicinal purposes only. Not only this, seaweed was also recognized on the rims of the stone tools that scatter across the Monte Verde II. Further, a cap of seaweed was also seen, which was assumed to be chewed. Seaweed is the best holder of iron, zinc, iodine, hormones, protein, and other elements. So, eating seaweed would definitely help in increasing the cholesterol metabolism, antibiotic effects, calcium uptake of bones, and ability to fight infection. All these facts unveil that the seaweed for not only used for medicines, but also for making tools and consumption.

Besides seaweeds, the other plants of Monte Verde II are found to be native to remote areas such as forests, inland wetlands, Andes foothills, and river bottoms. Among the medicinal plants, two of them belong to the Patagonian plains that are now in Argentina. All these facts tell us that the occupants of the Monte Verde possessed a wide knowledge of the available resources, which means that they might have followed an extensive exchange system or that it might have helped them for a long-term settlement.

Controversy

Monte Verde is in a hot debate with regards to be the first realistic evidence for the presence of humans in the continent before the Clovis culture, as its dates 14,000 calendar years back. By contrast, the Clovis settlements date back between 12,800-12,900 calendar years, featuring a different hunting lifestyle.

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  1. Laura says:

    Monte Verde certainly is one of my favorite places, and with the way you’ve covered it, it sounds as if m still there. Really awesome description of an awesome place.

  2. Matt says:

    I’ve been to Monte Verde and have loved it a lot, but i still think that Arenal is a tad better than Monte Verder. Though, the way you’ve covered Monet Verde, its tempting and can make anyone visit there.

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