Collection Description

Tradition Name

Coastal Andean Early Formative

Tradition Description

The Coastal Andean Early Formative tradition is located along the Pacific coast of Peru from southern Ecuador in the north to northern Chile in the south from 4100/3800–3000 BP (2100/1800–1000 BC). The start of the tradition is defined by the introduction of ceramics, and 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 circa 3400–3200 BP (1400–1200 BC) in northern Chile. The people were sedentary and there was a settlement hierarchy with civic/ceremonial centers containing monumental architecture, farming villages along river valleys where irrigation agriculture was possible, and fishing villages along the coastline; inland farmers exchanged vegetable products with coastal dwellers for marine resources. Site sizes and hierarchy may variously indicate chiefdoms or emerging states.


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 and date of publication.

The Coastal Andean Early Formative tradition, although ranging into southern Ecuador and northern Chile, is located principally along the desert coast of Peru from the Chira River basin in the far north to the Ica Valley in the south. It occurred from circa 3800 –3000 BP.

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 as many authors discuss the changes from the Preceramic period and into the Early Horizon. 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 the other collections for additional information. In particular the reader is directed to the following archaeological traditions: Coastal Andean Archaic (SE40), Coastal Andean Late Formative (SE43), Highland Andean Formative (SE48), Chavín (SE49), and Nazca (SE51).

Several documents provide overviews of the tradition. Burger (1995) discusses the Initial Period in Peru from the Tumbes drainage in the far north to south of the Lurin Valley. Moseley (1992) provides an overview of the artifacts and sites of the Initial Period and the Early Horizon, mostly in Peru. Moseley (1985) introduces other documents from the same 1985 volume (Conklin; Patterson; Ravines; Samaniego et al.; Williams León) and also describes some of the monuments and cultural changes of the late Preceramic and Early Formative Periods. Lumbreras (1974) writes an overview of the Formative Period in Peru, including both the coast and the highlands, from the Jequetepeque to Ica valleys, briefly touching on the Early Formative or Initial Period.

Many documents describe their authors' fieldwork in various coastal valleys. Describing work in the Jequetepeque Valley is Ravines (1985). Fieldwork in the Moche Valley can be found in Pozorski and Pozorski (1979), T. Pozorski (1976 and 2010), and Conklin, (1985). Pozorski and Pozorski (1993) describe work in both the Moche and Casma Valleys. Casma Valley fieldwork is found in Pozorski and Pozorski (1986,1992), Samaniego et al. (1985), and S. Pozorski, (1987). Twenty kilometers south of the Casma Valley is the site of Las Haldas (Matsuzawa, 1978). Patterson (1985) worked in the Rimac Valley. The site of Cardal in the Lurin Valley is discussed by Burger and Salazar-Burger (1991).

Williams León (1985) examines the formal architecture of the central and north coast of Peru, concentrating on the U-shaped pyramid complex and the circular sunken plaza. Also focusing on architecture, Pozorski and Pozorski (1999) present a case where the monumental architecture was not a "huaca" or sacred place, and that archaeologists therefore should also consider secular functions for these structures. Pozorski and Pozorski (1987) also demonstrate how two separate networks of chiefdom polities developed along the coast and in the highlands.

Haas (1987) contains the references for S. Pozorski (1987) and for Pozorski and Pozorski (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)"

Ayllu - lineage group - use "LINEAGES (613)"; - when discussing ayllu as a world view , use "ETHNOSOCIOLOGY (829)"

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

Canals - use "WATER SUPPLY (312)"

Corporate labor - use "LABOR RELATIONS (466)"

Cylinder seals or stamps - use "MNEMONIC DEVICES (211)"

Duality - as dual organization of a community , use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"; as world view, use "ETHNOSOCIOLOGY (829)"; as dual organization of religious worship use "GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION (771)"

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)"

Land snails - gathering of - use "COLLECTING (222)"

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)"

Non-domestic 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)"

Public architecture - use "RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346)"

Punzón - a bone awl used as a weaving implement - use "GENERAL TOOLS (412)"

Quincha - wattle and daub construction - use "MASONRY (333)"

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

Stamps - see Cylinder seals or stamps

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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