While it is commonly accepted that the Central Andes constitute one of the few centers of early plant domestication, there is not much agreement about the basic questions like specific places of “origin,” timing, process, and the region's relevance for early social and economic developments toward sustained social complexity.
In the early 1940s but based on earlier hypotheses, Julio C. Tello constructed an “agrotechnical” chain of human responses to environmental challenges. It starts in the eastern lowlands with extremely simple cultivation (basically manioc) combined with fruit collecting, hunting, and fishing. In the humid eastern slopes of the Andes, terracing was needed to improve the growing of crops, whereas in the upper highlands new plants were added like oca, quinoa, and potato. There, large concentrations of camelids and cervids together with a most benign climate turned puna and quechua into the “principal centers of human attraction in the remote past.” These plants, and particularly the potato, according to Tello, are capable of growing almost without human intervention. “Since the most remote times there was a migration of plants from highlands downwards and from the lowlands to the highlands” so that the coast receives many plants like fruit trees, coca, chili pepper, manioc, sweet potato, maize, and others “which grow easily in the montaña but need much attention on the coast” (Tello 1929: 21–22, 1942: 596–615).