EDMONTON, Alberta University of Alberta geologist Alexander Wolfe has found evidence of what he believes to be silver mining in the Andes Mountains hundreds of years before the rise of the Incan empire.
Wolfe and fellow researcher Mark Abbott from the University of Pittsburg specialize in analyzing lake-bottom sediments to track the Earth's climate history. At the foot of Cerro Rico in Bolivia they have found tantalizing hints of a civilization that worked silver 1,000 years ago. The sediments contain evidence of silver smelting in pre-Incan times. Their work was recently published in the journal Science. (An abstract of the article can be read for free at www.sciencemag.org.)
The work of Wolfe and Abbott has ramifications for the history of South America. It may lead to new archeological discoveries connected to the Tiwanaku civilization, which has not been considered to have metal-working skills by other researchers. Looks like a core sample has again led to as many questions as answers.