Ancient Cave Paintings Shed Light on Early Real Estate
Last month a team of archeologists in Peru, uncovered what is thought to be one of the oldest cave drawings depicting the commercial exchange of property. The drawings themselves are formed from cochineal (Dactylopius) – an insect known to have lived more than 3,000 years ago – and the local indigenous chalk, and depict what scientists say is a prehistoric ‘agent’ trading livestock for a dwelling, in this case, thought to be one of the carved edifices in the Chachepoyas series of caves (east of Los Friopla township.)
Initial carbon dating of some of the surrounding markings place the drawings’ creation between 20,000 – 22,000 years ago, not the oldest known (that honor goes to Maros, Indonesia,) but the earliest that shows some kind of exchange, and far earlier than monetary and financial systems.
Dr. Ramos Philippe, University of Lima, and his team were among the first groups on the scene to assess and analyze the paintings in their natural surrounds after reviewing photos and live video from the site. “It is quite extraordinary how these have survived uncovered for so long,” Philippe responded to journalists, “and the scene of the earliest commerce is exciting to understand pre-Inca trade that happened in this area of South America.”
What Do They Show?
The University released an overlay diagram emphasizing the more interesting aspects of the drawings, such as the dwelling, its new resident, a talisman of some kind that Philippe indicated might be a ‘trading icon.’ It also illustrates what is perceived as the selling ‘agent’ leaving the scene of the transaction with three animals – most likely representing a percentage of commission in both a symbolic and sign of value of exchange.
When asked what’s next, Philippe was optimistic given the depths of the Cave series. “I am certain there are other treasures to uncover; at the very least a deeper understanding of the transactions that took place between these indigenous people and nomadic tribes who roamed the region 25,000 years ago,” he added. “Who knows if it stopped at real estate-like buying and selling? Perhaps there were cave inspectors and rudimentary mortgage negotiations too.”
Dr. Philippe’s excitement is obviously contagious in the scientific community. Both the National Geographic Foundation and Smithsonian Institute indicated they would be sending teams to investigate further after the first of April’s holidays.