The iron oxide mined by the Huentelauquen Indians was used as a pigment in dying cloth and in religious rituals, revealing an unexpected sophistication in what was previously considered a primitive group of people, University of Chile researcher Diego Salazar said on Sunday.
“The fact they developed a mine shows the importance religion had in their lives, because iron oxide was not used as food, was not bought or sold,” he told the daily.
The ancient mine was discovered near the town of Taltal, in the Antofagasta region, 1,100km north of Santiago, in October 2008, but its antiquity was not determined until tests were conducted this year in US and Polish laboratories.
Named “San Ramon 15”, the mine was exploited heavily between around 10,000 BC and 2,000 BC. It yielded over the millennia a total of 2,000 tonnes of pigment extracted from 700 cubic metres of rock.