Collection Description

Tradition Name

Coastal Andean Archaic

Tradition Description

The Coastal Andean Archaic tradition is located along the Pacific coast of South America from southern Ecuador to northern Chile—principally the desert coast of Peru—from 7000–3800 BP (5000–1800 BC). The tradition ends with the introduction of ceramics, at different times in different areas: before 5500 BP (3500 BC) in Ecuador; circa 3800 BP (1800 BC) in northern and central Peru; and circa 3400–3200 BP (1400–1200 BC) in northern Chile. At the start of the tradition people were nomadic hunter-gatherers; by the end they had become settled fishermen and horticulturalists who built centers with monumental architecture. Their diet changed from deer, birds, reptiles, and gathered plants to one consisting largely of fish, shellfish, and marine mammals, with some gathered plant foods, and domesticated crops that included several types of tubers, beans, and fruits. But the earliest and probably most economically important crops were cotton and gourds for industrial uses such as fishing line, nets and floats. The use of cotton changed from cordage alone to single-warp textiles to split-paired twining and, ultimately, to plural-warp textiles.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Central Andes





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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Archaeology collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and, as necessary, title.

The Coastal Andean Archaic tradition is found along the desert coast from southern Ecuador to northern Chile, though its most characteristic form is known from the coast of Peru. It dates to approximately 7000–3800 BP (5000–1800 BC). The tradition ends with the introduction of ceramics, but ceramics came into use at different times in different areas: before 5500 BP (3500 BC) in Ecuador, circa 3800 BP (1800 BC) in northern and central Peru, and 3400–3200 BP (1400–1200 BC) in northern Chile.

Readers will find there is some overlap in time periods, location, and material culture between the various Andean traditions. This is especially true within documents that cover the changes from the Lithic stage through the Initial Period. Although each collection is marked for OCM (Outline of Cultural Materials) codes that pertain only to its own time period and location, readers are encouraged to examine the documents in related collections for additional information, including Early Northwest South American Littoral (S060), Highland Andean Archaic (SE47), Coastal Andean Early Formative (SE41), Coastal Andean Late Formative (SE43), Highland Andean Formative (SE48), and Chavín (SE49).

Several documents provide overviews of the tradition. Burger (1995) writes about the late Preceramic Period of coastal and highland Peru. Lumbreras (1972) covers coastal Peru from the twilight of the Lithic stage up to settled life in the Late Preceramic period. Moseley (1992) includes some sites in Ecuador and Chile in his discussion of the Preceramic in Peru. Fung Pineda (1988) takes an expansive view of the time period 5500-2800 BP for both coastal and highland Peru, with brief mention of Ecuador. Moseley (1975) summarizes the tradition but his primary purpose is to show that civilization can and did arise on coastal Peru without agriculture as the economic basis.

Monumental architecture is discussed by Feldman (1985) who also uses architecture as evidence for the rise of social stratification during the Preceramic Period (1987). Burger and Salazar-Burger (1985) describe their excavations at a highland site outside of the Coastal Andean Archaic Tradition, but include relevant discussion of interactions with the coast. Creamer et al. (2007 and 2013) present the results of their field seasons in the Pativilca and Fortaliza Valleys, respectively. Both valleys, part of the Norte Chico region, contain monumental architecture, sunken circular plazas, and U-shaped site layouts dating to the Late Archaic.

Haas et al. (1987) contains the references for Feldman (1987).

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Sarah Berry

Achira (Canna edulis) - an edible tuber - see "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)"

Altiplano - high plateau - use "TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)"

Andean verticality - a socioeconomic system with transfer of resources within a community that has populations located in different altitudinal ecozones - as settlement distribution , use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361) "; as internal economy , use "PRODUCTION AND SUPPLY (433)"

Arrachacha - (Arracacia esculenta, A. stenocephala, or A. xanthoriza) - an edible tuber - use "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)"

Berro - a plant - use "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)"

Corporate labor - use "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Duality - as dual organization of a community , use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621) "; as world view , use "ETHNOSOCIOLOGY (829)"

Encanto complex - the last stage before the Preceramic period in the Ancon-Chillón area of the central coast of Peru, circa 6300-4800 BP (4300-2800 BC)

Eriazo - Many sites in the Fortaleza Valley owe their excellent state of preservation to their location above the floodplain on the margins of coastal valleys that cannot be reached with gravity-flow irrigation. This land, called eriazo, has remained largely uncultivated for the past 5000 years and is covered with many archaeological sites.

Green plum (Bunchosia armeniaca) - a fruit - use "ARBORICULTURE (245)"

Ground cherry (Prunus capulli, Physalis peruviana, cape gooseberry) - a fruit - use "ARBORICULTURE (245)"

Huaca - spiritual point of reference, a place or a thing, embodying supernatural beings or forces - use "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Jíquima (Pachyrhizus tuberosus) - a tuber similar to jícama - use "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)"

Lomas - scattered plant communities on the foothills of the western slopes of the Andes (200-1000 m altitude) with flora dependent on moisture from fogs during the June to October cloudy season; dry and barren the remainder of the year - use "CLIMATE (132)" with "TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)"

Lúcuma (Lucuma sp.) - a fruit - use "ARBORICULTURE (245)"

Manihot - genus name for many species of plants, including cassava or manioc, cultivated for its edible tuber (Manihot esculenta) - use "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)"

Mit'a or mita - a form of labor service or labor taxation - use "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Monumental architecture - use "PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)"

Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) - an edible root vegetable grown in the Andean highlands - use "VEGETABLE PRODUCTION (244)" with "FOREIGN TRADE (439)"

Pacay (Inga feuilleei) - also known as pacae, guaba or ice-cream bean, a perennial tree legume cultivated for its fruit pods containing an edible white pulp surrounding large seeds - use "ARBORICULTURE (245)"

Pampa phase - earliest phase in the Ancon-Chillón area , with cotton but without cotton textiles

Shicra - open-mesh sacks made of plant fibers - use "UTENSILS (415)"

Tree tomato - plant with an edible fruit - use "ARBORICULTURE (245)"

Trophy heads - use "AFTERMATH OF COMBAT (727)"

Vertical archipelago - see “Andean verticality”

Verticality - see “Andean verticality”

Yunga - transitional biozone between the Andean highlands and the Amazonian lowlands - use "TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY (133)"

Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

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