Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-wzw2p Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-18T08:14:27.044Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Mid-Holocene Cultural Interaction between the North Coast of Peru and Ecuador

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Daniel H. Sandweiss*
Department of Anthropology/Institute for Quaternary Studies, South Stevens Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469


Incised pebbles found at the mid-Holocene, Middle Preceramic period Ostra Base Camp site on the Peruvian north coast demonstrate long-distance links to coastal Ecuador, 700 km to the north. The artifacts belong to a northwestern Andean pebble-figurine tradition associated with the tropical coast. Environmental indicators at the Ostra site show a warm-water lagoonal environment, unlike the modern cold-water conditions of northwestern Peru but similar to modern Ecuador. The Ostra site dates between ca. 5500 and 6250 B.P. (3550 and 4300 B.C.), during a hiatus in the coastal Ecuadorian record, so the link to Ecuador provides the earliest evidence of long-distance cultural interaction between these regions. Until contemporary sites are found in Ecuador, the Ostra Base Camp site provides our only example for this time of tropical coastal cultures of the northwestern Andean interaction sphere.

El sitio Campamento Base de Ostra en la costa norte del Perú es del período Precerámico Medio del Holoceno Medio. Los pequeños cantos rodados con incisiones encontrados en este sitio demuestran conexiones a larga distancia con la costa del Ecuador, a unos 700 km al norte. Los artefactos pertenecen a una tradición de figurillas de piedra del noroeste andino asociada con la costa tropical. Los indicadores ambientales en el sitio Ostra ofrecen la evidencia de un ambiente de laguna de aguas cálidas, similar a las condiciones actuales del Ecuador pero diferente a las condiciones actuales de agua fría de la costa peruana. El sitio Ostra se fecha entre 5500 y 6250 a.P. (3550 y 4300 a.C.), durante un hiato en el registro arqueológico de la costa Ecuatoriana, y por esto la conexión con Ecuador provee la evidencia más temprana de conexiones culturales a larga distancia entre estas regiones. Hasta que se encuentren sitios contemporáneos en el Ecuador, el sitio Ostra nos da el único ejemplar de las culturas costeñas tropicales de la esfera de interacción del noroeste andino.

Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1996

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


References Cited

Aguirre, M. L. 1993 Palaeobiogeography of the Holocene Molluscan Fauna from Northeastern Buenos Aires Province, Argentina: Its Relation to Coastal Evolution and Sea Level Changes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 102:126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benfer, R. A. Jr. 1990 The Preceramic Period Site of Paloma, Peru: Bioindicators of Improving Adaptation to Sedentism. Latin American Antiquity 1:284318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bird, J. B., Hyslop, J., and Skinner, M. 1985 The Preceramic Excavations at the Huaca Prieta, Chicama Valley, Peru. Anthropological Papers Vol. 62, Pt. 1. American Museum of Natural History, New York.Google Scholar
Bischof, H., and Viteri Gamboa, J. 1972 Pre-Valdivia Occupations on the Southwest Coast of Ecuador. American Antiquity 37:548551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burger, R. L. 1984 Archaeological Areas and Prehistoric Frontiers: The Case of Formative Peru and Ecuador. In Social and Economic Organization in the Prehispanic Andes, edited by D. L. Browman, R. L. Burger, and M. A. Rivera, pp. 3371. BAR International Series 194. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford.Google Scholar
Cardenas, M., Vivar, J., Olivera, G., and Huapaya, B. 1993 Materiales arqueológicos del Macizo de lllescas, Sechura - Piura. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima.Google Scholar
Damp, J. E., Jackson, D., Vargas, P., and Zambrano, P. 1990 On the Waterfront: Quaternary Environments and the Formative Occupation of Southwestern Ecuador. Geoarchaeology 2:171185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeVries, T. J., and Wells, L. E. 1990 Thermally-Anomalous Holocene Molluscan Assemblages from Coastal Peru: Evidence for Paleogeographic, not Climatic Change. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 81:1132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dillehay, T. D., Netherly, P. J., and Rossen, J. 1989 Early Preceramic Public and Residential Sites on the Forested Slope of the Western Andes, Northern Peru. American Antiquity 54:733759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elder, K. L. 1993 Dating the Climatic Optimum with AMS. AMS Pulse 1(4): 1, 56.Google Scholar
Engel, F. A. 1963 A Preceramic Settlement on the Central Coast of Peru: Asia, Unit 1. Transactions Vol. 53, No. 3. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
Engel, F. A. 1983 Notes on Pre-Columbian Fishhooks and Other Fishing Devices Used in the Cold Waters of Southern America. In Stone Typology, edited by F. A. Engel, pp. 129160. Prehistoric Andean Ecology: Man, Settlement, and Environment in the Andes, vol. 3. Hunter College, New York.Google Scholar
Feldman, R. A. 1980 Aspero, Peru: Architecture, Subsistence Economy, and Other Artifacts of a Preceramic Maritime Chiefdom. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
Lanning, E. P. 1967 Peru before the lncas. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.Google Scholar
Lathrap, D. 1973 The Antiquity and Importance of Long-Distance Trade Relationships in the Moist Tropics of Andean South America. World Archaeology 5:170186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lathrap, D. 1974 The Moist Tropics, the Arid Lands, and the Appearance of Great Art Styles in the New World. In Art and Environment in Native America, edited by M. E. King and I. R. Traylor, Jr., pp. 115158. Special Publications No. 7. The Museum, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.Google Scholar
Llagostera, A. 1992 Early Occupations and the Emergence of Fishermen on the Pacific Coast of South America. Andean Past 3:87109.Google Scholar
Lutaenko, K. A. 1993 Climatic Optimum during the Holocene and the Distribution of Warm-Water Mollusks in the Sea of Japan. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 102:273281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcos, J. G. 1988 Real Alto La historia de un centro ceremonial Valdivia (Primera parte). Biblioteca Ecuatoriana de Arqueología 4. Corporación Editora Nacional, Quito.Google Scholar
Meggers, B. J., Evans, C., and Estrada, E. 1965 Early Formative Period of Coastal Ecuador: The Valdivia and Machalilla Phases. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, Vol. 1. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
Murra, J. V. 1975 El tráfico de mullu en la costa del Pacífico. In Formaciones económicas y políticas del mundo andino, by J. V. Murra, pp. 255267. Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, Lima.Google Scholar
Murra, J. V. 1980 Economic Organization of the Inca State. JAI Press, Greenwich, Connecticut.Google Scholar
Perrier, C, Ortlieb, L., and Hillaire-Marcel, C. 1994 Paléogéografie littorale et enregistrement isotopique (13C, 18O) d’événements de type El Niño par les mollusques Holocènes et Récents du nordouest Péruvien. Géographie Physique et Quaternaire 48:2338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pozorski, S., and Pozorski, T. 1979 Alto Salaverry: A Peruvian Coastal Preceramic Site. Annals of Carnegie Museum 48:337375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quilter, J. 1985 Architecture and Chronology at El Paraíso, Peru. Journal of Field Archaeology 12:279297.Google Scholar
Quilter, J. 1989 Life and Death at Paloma. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City.Google Scholar
Quilter, J. 1991 Late Preceramic Peru. Journal of World Prehistory 5:387438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reitz, E. J. 1994 Environmental Change at Ostra Base Camp: A Peruvian Preceramic Site. Manuscript on file, Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia, Athens.Google Scholar
Richardson, J. B. III 1973 The Preceramic Sequence and the Pleistocene and Post-Pleistocene Climate of Northwest Peru. In Human Variation, edited by D. W. Lathrap and J. Douglas, pp. 7389. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.Google Scholar
Richardson, J. B. 1978 Early Man on the Peruvian North Coast, Early Maritime Exploitation and Pleistocene and Holocene Environment. In Early Man in America from a Circum-Pacific Perspective, edited by A. L. Bryan, pp. 274289. Department of Anthropology Occasional Papers No. 1. University of Alberta, Edmonton.Google Scholar
Richardson, J. B. 1987 The Chronology and Affiliations of the Ceramic Periods of the Departments of Piura and Tumbes, Northwest Peru. Paper presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Toronto.Google Scholar
Richardson, J. B. III, McConaughy, M. A., Heaps de Peña, A., and Décima Zamecnik, E. B. 1990 The Northern Frontier of the Kingdom of Chimor The Piura, Chira, and Tumbez Valleys. In The Northern Dynasties: Kingship and Statecraft in Chimor, edited by M. E. Moseley and A. Cordy-Collins, pp. 419445. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
Rollins, H. B., Richardson, J. B. III, and Sandweiss, D. H. 1986 The Birth of El Niño: Geoarchaeological Evidence and Implications. Geoarchaeology 1:115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rossen, J. 1991 Ecotones and Low-Risk Intensification: The Middle Preceramic Habitation of Nanchoc, Northern Peru. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, Lexington.Google Scholar
Rostworowski, M. 1970 Mercaderes del valle de Chincha en la época prehispánica: un documento y unos comentarios. Revista Española de Antropología Americana 5:135177.Google Scholar
Salomon, F. 1987 A North Andean Status Trader Complex under Inka Rule. Ethnohistory 34:6377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sandweiss, D. H. 1986 The Beach Ridges at Santa, Peru: El Niño, Uplift, and Prehistory. Geoarchaeology 1:1728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sandweiss, D., Rollins, H. B., and Richardson, J. B. III 1983 Landscape Alteration and Prehistoric Human Occupation on the North Coast of Peru. Annals of Carnegie Museum 52:277298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stothert, K. E. 1987 Interpreting a Gap in the Prehistoric Chronology of the Arid Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador. In Man and the Mid-Holocene Climatic Optimum, edited by N. A. MacKinnon and G. S. L. Stuart, pp. 131141. University of Calgary Archaeological Association, Calgary.Google Scholar
Stothert, K. E. 1988 La prehistoria temprana de la Peninsula de Santa Elena, Ecuador: Cultura las Vegas. Miscelánea Antropológica Ecuatoriana Serie Monográfica Vol. 10. Museo del Banco Central del Ecuador, Guayaquil.Google Scholar
Stothert, K. E. 1992 Early Economies of Coastal Ecuador and the Foundations of Andean Civilization. Andean Past 3:4354.Google Scholar
Willey, G. R., and Corbett, J. M. 1954 Early Ancón and Early Supe Culture. Columbia University Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zeidler, J. A. 1991 Maritime Exchange in the Early Formative Period of Coastal Ecuador: Geopolitical Origins of Uneven Development. Research in Economic Anthropology 13:247268.Google Scholar