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Earth Science

Spanish Conquest May Have Altered Peru's Shoreline 94

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the accidental-retaining-wall dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The Spanish conquest of the Inca had a profound effect on Peru's indigenous people, but a new study reveals that it also had an unexpected impact on the land itself. Before the Spaniards arrived, inhabitants of the arid northern Peruvian coast clad massive sand dune-like ridges with an accidental form of 'armor': millions of discarded mollusk shells, which protected the ridges from erosion for nearly 4700 years and produced a vast corrugated landscape that is visible from space. This incidental landscape protection came to a swift end, however, after diseases brought by Spanish colonists decimated the local population and after colonial officials resettled the survivors inland. Without humans to create the protective covering, newly formed beach ridges simply eroded and vanished."
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Spanish Conquest May Have Altered Peru's Shoreline

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:36PM (#47042369)

    Weren't the Peruvians altering the coast (in a way that would not be allowed in US wetlands) and when the Spanish came the coast was returned to nature?

    • by sunking2 (521698) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:41PM (#47042411)
      It's ok when it's done by the indigenous people. It's only when the white man does it that it's bad.
      • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:50PM (#47042491)

        Nothing against the white man, and full disclosure would reveal that my mother actually married one, but I'm just simple.

        Anthropogenic anything is still nature's, and the universe's, hand at work...

        Our super-sized egos aside, we are not separate from the rest of existence.

        • Our super-sized egos aside, we are not separate from the rest of existence.

          Now you've done it...

          Me, I'm waiting for the ABE (Anthropogenic Beach Erosion) crowd to scream and belittle "deniers" who will question the assertion that those evil Spaniards were actually at fault, or if they just introduced better foods...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Who said anything here about OK or bad?

      • Despite the research it doesn't seem conclusive that man made "Costal Change" is anything other than a liberal misinformation conspiracy. Yes, some beach ridges have vanished or eroded, but the same thing happened during natural ice ages.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Good point. The conquistadores put a stop to whatever babble this guy is talking about:

      They also altered anthropogenically modulated processes of shoreline change that had functioned for millennia.

      • by CWCheese (729272)
        One can only imagine how pristine the coastline would have been without this civilization despoiling the dunes. Seems the researcher is building his case that humankind has been disastrous for the earth for as long as it has existed.
        • Disastrous - well, that's a loaded term. One organism's disaster is another's dinner. The world / universe just is.

          But humans, along with all sorts of other plants and animals, have been changing the environment for a very long time.

          For quite a bit more detail on South America, read 1493 [npr.org] and some of his other books.

          TL;DR - there is no such thing as purely 'natural'.

  • This incidental landscape protection came to a swift end, however, after diseases brought by Spanish colonists decimated the local population

    Can't be too bad since decimate means reduce by a 10th....

    • by Opyros (1153335)

      decimate means reduce by a 10th

      Not necessarily. [oup.com]

      • by Rick Zeman (15628)

        decimate means reduce by a 10th

        Not necessarily. [oup.com]

        People could say "decimate" means "blue" but that still doesn't make it right, nor contravene its etymological origins. Hard to get around "deci" in there.....

        • by Wycliffe (116160)

          decimate means reduce by a 10th

          Not necessarily. [oup.com]

          People could say "decimate" means "blue" but that still doesn't make it right, nor contravene its etymological origins. Hard to get around "deci" in there.....

          You mean like September, October, November and December? Words change.

    • Are you sure? In latin, "decima" means 1/10, so I figured to decimate means to reduce TO 1/10, so BY 9/10.

  • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Monday May 19, 2014 @06:59PM (#47042575)
    I bet they weren't expecting that.
    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday May 19, 2014 @08:10PM (#47042949) Homepage

      That event was a more notable for historical and cultural reasons to European history. However, most of the deaths were caused by diseases and civil war.

      While numbers are unavailable, Spanish records indicate that the population was so devastated by disease that their forces could hardly be resisted. However, whether the illness of the 1520s was actually smallpox has been contested; a minority of scholars claim that the epidemic was actually due to an indigenous illness called Carrion's disease. In any case, a study by N. D. Cook, the results of which were published in 1981, show that the Andes suffered from three separate population declines during colonization. The first was of 30–50 percent during the first outbreak of smallpox. Then, when smallpox was followed with the measles, another decline of 25–30 percent occurred. Finally, when smallpox and measles appeared together, which occurred from 1585 to 1591, a decline of 30–60 percent occurred. Collectively these declines amounted to a decline of 93 percent from the population pre-contact in the Andes region.[15]

      When Pizarro arrived in Peru in 1532, he found it vastly different from when he had been there just five years before. Amid the ruins of the city of Tumbes, he tried to piece together the situation before him. From two young local boys who he had taught how to speak Spanish in order to translate for him, Pizarro learned of the civil war and of the disease that was destroying the Inca Empire.[3]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    • Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 19, 2014 @07:00PM (#47042589)

    Protip: If you are going to submit an article about something "visible from space", you should have a picture of said something taken from space.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Show me a satalite that was around back then and I will find you a pick. Wait...

      --=-..-=-- There is an artist's rendition for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been trained to loath dirty Europeans and their expansionist ways.... yet here they can claim allegiance to Gaia by stopping the coastal disruption of thoughtless natives altering the land for their own benefit.

    What's a libtard to do!?

    Loath everyone. As usual.

  • So ... the Spanish stopped them from littering?
  • Of their favorite meme, that is. I went to TFA expecting to see how the evils spanijzz kiled the know bull Perooveens, but it's just an article describing and showing an example of how humans alter their environment, and a change in the particular humans makes for particular effects. No kidding.Let's talk to the dutch about altering the shoreline.

    Instead, the intrepid slash dotters apply their personal biases to declare a completely contrary meaning, The stoopid treehuggas, Global warming denial, leeebu

  • I they were tasty enough that the people travelled back to the shore to eat them, the shoreline wouldn't be eroding.

  • by MPAB (1074440) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:37AM (#47044505)

    To consider what the non-white natives did worldwide as "natural" means giving them the same dignity as ants or beavers. "Then came the 'civilized human' (AKA white) and trampled it.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      To consider what the non-white natives did worldwide as "natural" means giving them the same dignity as ants or beavers. "

      Beavers maybe, not ants. Even shamen (yeah that word is specific, but you know what I mean) don't claim to understand the ant mind, the world over. But what's wrong with the noble beaver? They create lakes. The natives certainly wouldn't mind the comparison, except for how you mean it.

  • Since the slowing or cessation of dune / ridge formation started about 2800 years ago (according to one paper), one might want a little more evidence before blaming it all on the Conquistadors or the following Spanish occupiers.

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