Stackelbeck/Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Emerging Complexity Among Middle Preceramic Hunter-Gatherers on the North Coast of Peru

  • Stackelbeck, Kary (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Under the direction of Dr. Tom Dillehay, Ms. Kary L. Stackelbeck will collect archeological and paleoecological data for her doctoral dissertation. She will continue archaeological survey and excavation in the lower Jequetepeque Valley on the north coast of Peru, which began during the Proyecto Pacasmayo (1997-2001; co-directed by Drs. Tom Dillehay and Alan Kolata). The Central Andes, particularly Peru and Ecuador, is known as an area where pristine civilization and monumental architecture developed early. But unlike other parts of the world where the earlier Neolithic and Archaic periods are fairly well known, relatively little is known about the preceding cultures and practices of the Middle Preceramic Period (ca. 7000-4500 BP) that set the stage for these later independent developments in Peru. It has generally been assumed that simple coastal fisherfolk and gatherers of the Middle Preceramic suddenly established complex polities with sophisticated social hierarchies and monumental architecture of the Late Preceramic period without any transitional socio-economic formations. But there are indications that some social, economic, and technological changes had their roots in the preceding Middle Preceramic. It is the purpose of the proposed research to examine the processes of emerging social and economic complexity as evidenced by Middle Preceramic occupations of the lower Jequetepeque Valley on the North coast of Peru and to compare these processes with those in other regions of the world. The student applicant has spent two field seasons conducting survey in the lower Jequetepeque Valley as part of the Proyecto Pacasmayo. During this survey, tight clusters of a wide variety of Early and Middle Preceramic sites were identified in parts of Quebrada del Batan and Quebrada Talambo. The Q. Talambo sites in particular exhibit the remains of Middle Preceramic and later domestic architecture defined by earlier circular and later semi-rectangular stone-lined structures, dense concentrations of chipped-stone lithics (including unifaces), and/or grinding stones. The presence of permanent architecture in the form of two to eight circular stone-lined huts at single sites signals important early steps toward settlement permanency, social aggregation, and increased localization in preferred ecological zones along the lower western slopes of the Andes in this area. The Q. Talambo area lies within an ecological setting consisting of multiple, closely-juxtaposed microenvironmental zones along the lower western flanks of the Andes. The pattern of Early and Middle Preceramic sites is different from the Late Preceramic pyramids and settlements, which are located closer to the valley floor, presumably for the purpose of exploiting fertile agricultural lands. The proposed research project will be the first opportunity on the north coast of Peru to systematically examine tight clusters of Middle Preceramic sites in this kind of ecological setting in order to understand the socio-economic processes that set in motion social aggregation, subsistence/settlement localization, and technological change, and to relate this understanding to other areas of the world. The research methodology will involve the completion of survey within the Q. Talambo drainage and excavation of selected, intact Middle Preceramic sites. In addition, various lithic analyses, paleoecological studies, and intrasite spatial analysis will be performed. Although the proposed study is specifically focused on local evidence for emergent complexity, it is understood that this research will have implications for our understanding of long-term culture change within the Jequetepeque Valley, the north coast region, and the Central Andes in broader perspective. In addition, the results of this research will add to a growing body of research aimed at understanding how the organizational principles of early hunter-gatherers in many parts of the world ultimately set the stage for later, complex societies.
Effective start/end date5/15/024/30/04


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