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Climate Variation and the Rise and Fall of an Andean Civilization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Michael W. Binford
Affiliation:
Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138
Alan L. Kolata
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637
Mark Brenner
Affiliation:
Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida, 7922 N.W. 71st Street, Gainesville, Florida, 32653
John W. Janusek
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637
Matthew T. Seddon
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60637
Mark Abbott
Affiliation:
Limnological Research Center, 220 Pillsbury Hall, 310 Pillsbury Drive S.E. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55455
Jason H. Curtis
Affiliation:
Department of Geology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 32611

Abstract

Paleolimnological and archaeological records that span 3500 years from Lake Titicaca and the surrounding Bolivian–Peruvian altiplano demonstrate that the emergence of agriculture (ca. 1500 B.C.) and the collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization (ca. A.D. 1100) coincided with periods of abrupt, profound climate change. The timing and magnitude of climate changes are inferred from stratigraphic evidence of lake-level variation recorded in14C-dated lake-sediment cores. Paleo-lake levels provide estimates of drainage basin water balance. Archaeological evidence establishes spatial and temporal patterns of agricultural field use and abandonment. Prior to 1500 B.C., aridity in the altiplano precluded intensive agriculture. During a wetter period from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1100, the Tiwanaku civilization and its immediate predecessors developed specialized agricultural methods that stimulated population growth and sustained large human settlements. A prolonged drier period (ca. A.D. 1100–1400) caused declining agricultural production, field abandonment, and cultural collapse.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
University of Washington

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