Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Alpaca and Llama: Domestication

  • Jessica L. MetcalfEmail author
  • Alan Cooper
  • Jane C. Wheeler
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_2212

Basic Species Information

Four camelid species inhabit South America today: the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) and its domesticated form alpaca (Vicugna pacos), and the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and its domesticated form the llama (Lama glama) (Kadwell et al. 2001). Since their initial contact with humans in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, camelids have been an important resource for the South American people. Initially camelids were a primary source of food, which ultimately led to their domestication in the mid-Holocene. Over the last several thousand years, domesticated camelids have become important in many aspects of human life, from textiles to religious practices. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish conquest had a devastating impact on camelid populations. Tax records of herd sizes registered a 90 % decrease during the first 100 years of Spanish occupation (Wheeler 2012). Therefore, we do not have a clear understanding of the diversity of alpaca and llama that existed under...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica L. Metcalf
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alan Cooper
    • 2
  • Jane C. Wheeler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Australian Centre for Ancient DNAUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.CONOPA, Instituto de Investigación y Desarrollo de Camélidos SudamericanosLimaPeru