Terry O'Connor

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ICAZ goes Andean

The 2014 conference of the International Council for Archaeozoology (ICAZ2014) is all over, and it will be another four years before this eclectic bunch meets again. The Conference generated lots of Twitter traffic, often with excellent pics of people. This post has just a few of my favourites from the post-conference two-day excursion.

 

San Rafael welcomes ICAZ

San Rafael welcomes ICAZ

After the bustle of the city (cliché alert!), buses took us westwards to the Precordillera and Andean regions of Mendoza Province.

Looking towards the Andes

Looking towards the Andes

For landscape nerds, the light rocks in the left foreground are volcanic ash, the dark rocks on the right are a basalt lava flow and the gulch between them is a meltwater overflow channel. This region does topography on a grand scale.

View from a  footbridge

View from a
footbridge

 

Mountains at Las Lenas ski resort

Mountains at Las Lenas ski resort

 

It was not all about dramatic landscapes. We took in a couple of prehistoric sites, and were impressed by the logistical challenge of doing fieldwork in such a place. One of the sites was near the summer camp of a family of transhumant pastoralists, whose goats attracted a lot of attention. The father of the family is skilled in working leather, including making bolas. Those of an ethnographical persuasion were in heaven, as were others when invited to head steeply uphill to see a cave site.

ICAZ folks enjoying a cave with a view

ICAZ folks enjoying a cave with a view

 

Second day took us further south into the volcanic region near Malargue, a landscape of ash cones and lava fields with occasional sightings of guanaco and rhea. We stopped off at a house that some of us mistook for a well-built summer camp, but which turned out to be a permanent family home.

A well-built and very hospitable home in the middle of nowhere

A well-built and very hospitable home in the middle of nowhere

Apart from the human residents, the house had several dogs, a parrot, an impossibly cute kitten (grey tabby, blue eyes…) and a bunch of turkeys.

Gentleman turkey making his feelings known

Gentleman turkey making his feelings known

Further into the volcanic region, the landscape becomes a bleak jumble of lava flows, vents, fields of lapilli and larger ‘bombs’.

ICAZ contemplating a landscape made of ash and pumice

ICAZ contemplating a landscape made of ash and pumice

Even here, a few things make a living. Our sheltered picnic stop shared the edge of a lava flow with assorted birds, a few mara and Microcavia australis, a rodent with a dangerously high cute-quotient.

Microcavia australis: all the charm of a guinea pig in a small package

Microcavia australis: all the charm of a guinea pig in a small package

 

The final bit of authentic atmosphere came when one of the minibuses crunched to a permanent halt miles from anywhere around sunset. When necessary, it is possible to get 28 people into an off-road minibus. The alternative was to leave a bunch of zooarchaeologists out on the hills after dark, and that would have been unfair to any local puma!

Two long, dusty days rattling around in off-road minibuses, but worth every jolt and wobble.

 

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