Skip to main content Accessibility help

Dating the Dead: New Radiocarbon Dates from the Lower Ica Valley, South Coast Peru

  • Lauren Cadwallader (a1), Susana Arce Torres (a2), Tamsin C O'Connell (a3), Alexander G Pullen (a1) and David G Beresford-Jones (a1)...


This article presents radiocarbon dates from human bone samples (n = 13) from seven pre-Columbian cemeteries in the Samaca and Ullujaya Basins of the lower Ica Valley, south coast of Peru, spanning from the end of the Early Horizon to the Inca Late Horizon. These contexts have been severely looted. Yet, in all cases, their putative dating by material culture remains is confirmed by these 14C dates. This shows that such disturbed contexts, sadly typical of the Peruvian coast, can nonetheless still yield valuable bioarchaeological and burial practice data. These dates elaborate upon an emerging picture of the absolute dating of the cultural phases of the wider south coast region, in particular casting new light on the poorly understood Middle Horizon to Late Intermediate period transition. A paucity of archaeological data for this 3-century period has been taken as evidence of some sort of environmentally or socially induced lacuna. Instead, the 14C dates presented here suggest that the basins of the lower Ica Valley were continuously occupied over this period.


Corresponding author

2. Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Beresford-Jones, DG. 2011. The Lost Woodlands of Ancient Nasca. A Case-Study in Ecological and Cultural Collapse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brock, F, Higham, TFG, Ditchfield, P, Bronk Ramsey, C. 2010. Current pretreatment methods for AMS radiocarbon dating at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU). Radiocarbon 52(1):103–12.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2001. Development of the radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 43(2A):355–63.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337–60.
Brown Vega, M, Craig, NM, Culleton, BJ, Kennett, DJ, Asencios Lindo, G. 2012. AMS radiocarbon dates from Prehispanic fortifications in the Huaura Valley, central coast of Perú. Radiocarbon 55(1):112.
Burger, RL. 1992. Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization. London: Thames and Hudson.
Buzon, MR, Conlee, CA, Simonetti, A, Bowen, GJ. 2012. The consequences of Wari contact in the Nasca region during the Middle Horizon: archaeological, skeletal, and isotopic evidence. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(8):2627–36.
Cadwallader, L. 2013. Investigating 1500 years of dietary change in the Lower Ica Valley, Peru, using an isotopic approach [PhD dissertation]. University of Cambridge.
Cadwallader, L, Beresford-Jones, DG, Whaley, OQ, O'Connell, TC. 2012. The signs of maize? A reconsideration of what δ13C values say about palaeodiet in the Andean region. Human Ecology 40(4):487509.
Cadwallader, L, Arce Torres, S, Beresford-Jones, DG. In press. Nuevas evidencias de la transición Ocucaje-Nasca en un asentamiento en Samaca, Valle Bajo de Ica, Costa Sur del Perú. In: Peters, A, Tomasto, E, editors. Paracas – Nasca: Una Época “Transicional” del Formativo Tardío, Costa Sur de los Andes Centrales. Lima: Institut Français d'Etudes Andines (IFEA).
Conlee, CA. 2010. Nasca and Wari: local opportunism and colonial ties during the Middle Horizon. In: Jennings, J, editor. Beyond Wari Walls: Regional Perspectives on Middle Horizon Peru. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p 96112.
Cook, AG. 1991. Informe final de las investigaciones de reconocimiento en la parte baja del Valle de Ica, 1988–1990 [unpublished manuscript of file]. Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura del Perú.
Cook, AG. 2004. Wari art and society. In: Silverman, HI, editor. Andean Archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. p 146–66.
Eitel, B, Mächtle, B. 2009. Man and environment in the eastern Atacama Desert (southern Peru): Holocene climate changes and their impact on Pre-Columbian cultures. In: Reindel, M, Wagner, GA, editors. New Technologies for Archaeology: Multidisciplinary Investigations in Papa and Nasca, Peru. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p 1723.
Grobman, A, Bonavia, D, Dillehay, TD, Piperno, DR, Iriarte, J, Holst, I. 2012. Preceramic maize from Paredones and Huaca Prieta, Peru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109(5):1755–9.
Hogg, A, Bronk Ramsey, C, Turney, C, Palmer, J. 2009. Bayesian evaluation of the Southern Hemisphere radiocarbon offset during the Holocene. Radiocarbon 51(4):1165–76.
Hogg, AG, Hua, Q, Blackwell, PG, Niu, M, Buck, CE, Guilderson, TP, Heaton, TJ, Palmer, JG, Reimer, PJ, Reimer, RW, Turney, CSM, Zimmerman, SRH. 2013. SHCal13 Southern Hemisphere calibration, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):1889–90.
Hua, Q, Barbetti, M, Jacobsen, GE, Zoppi, U, Lawson, EM. 2000. Bomb radiocarbon in annual tree rings from Thailand and Australia. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 172(1–4):359–65.
Jones, KB, Hodgins, GWL, Etayo-Cadavid, MF, Andrus, CFT, Sandweiss, DH. 2010. Centuries of marine radiocarbon reservoir age variation within archaeological Mesodesma donacium shells from southern Peru. Radiocarbon 52(3):1207–14.
Kroeber, AL, Strong, WD. 1924. The Uhle pottery collections from Ica. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 21:95133.
Lyons, P. 1966. Innovation through archaism: the origins of the Ica pottery style. Ñawpa Pacha 4:3164.
Marsh, EJ. 2012. A Bayesian re-assessment of the earliest radiocarbon dates from Tiwanaku, Bolivia. Radiocarbon 54(2):203–18.
McCormac, FG, Reimer, PJ, Hogg, AG, Higham, TFG, Ballie, MGL, Palmer, J, Stuiver, M. 2002. Calibration of the radiocarbon time scale for the Southern Hemisphere: AD 1850–950. Radiocarbon 44(3):641–51.
Menzel, D. 1964. Style and time in the Middle Horizon. Ñawpa Pacha 2:1106.
Menzel, D. 1976. Pottery Style and Society in Ancient Peru. Art as a Mirror of History in the Ica Valley, 1350–1570. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Menzel, D, Rowe, JH, Dawson, LE. 1964. The Paracas Pottery of Ica: A Study in Style and Time. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Metropolitan Museum of Art [Internet]. On-line catalogue. Accession Number 1979.206.639 [cited 2013 April 15]. Available from
Pezzia Assereto, A. 1968. Ica y el Perú Precolombino: Tomo 1 Arqueología de la Provincia de Ica. Ojeda, Venezuela: Empresa Editora Liberia.
Pollard Rowe, A. 1979. Seriation of an Ica-style garment type. In: Pollard Rowe, A, Benson, EP, Schaffer, A-L, editors. The Junius B. Bird Pre-Columbian Textile Conference 1973. Washington, DC: The Textile Museum and Dumbarton Oaks. p 185218.
Pollard Rowe, A. 1992. Provincial Inca tunics of the south coast of Peru. The Textile Museum Journal 31:552.
Reimer, PJ, Baillie, MGL, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PG, Bronk Ramsey, C, Buck, CE, Burr, GS, Edwards, RL, Friedrich, M, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Hajdas, I, Heaton, TJ, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, McCormac, FG, Manning, SW, Reimer, RW, Richards, DA, Southon, JR, Talamo, S, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J, Weyhenmeyer, CE. 2009. IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 51(4):1111–50.
Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PG, Bronk Ramsey, C, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Haflidason, H, Hajdas, I, Hatté, C, Heaton, TJ, Hoffmann, DL, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, Manning, SW, Niu, M, Reimer, RW, Richards, DA, Scott, EM, Southon, JR, Staff, RA, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):1869–87.
Rowe, JH. 1967. An interpretation of radiocarbon measurements on archaeological samples from Peru. In: Rowe, JH, Menzel, D, editors. Peruvian Archaeology: Selected Readings. Palo Alto: Peek Publications.
Unkel, I, Kromer, B. 2009. The clock in the corn cob: on the development of a chronology of the Paracas and Nasca Period based on radiocarbon dating. In: Reindel, M, Wagner, GA, editors. New Technologies for Archaeology: Multidisciplinary Investigations in Papa and Nasca, Peru. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p 231–44.
Unkel, I, Reindel, M, Gorbahn, H, Isla, J, Kromer, B, Sossna, V. 2012. A comprehensive numerical chronology for the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Palpa valleys, south coast of Peru. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(7):2294–30.
Vaughn, KJ, Eerkens, JW, Lipo, C, Sakai, S, Schreiber, K. 2014. It's about time? Testing the Dawson ceramic seriation using luminescence dating, southern Nasca Region, Peru. Latin American Antiquity 25(4):449–67.
Worbes, M, Junk, WJ. 1989. Dating tropical trees by means of 14C from bomb tests. Ecology 70(2):503–7.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0033-8222
  • EISSN: 1945-5755
  • URL: /core/journals/radiocarbon
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed