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9672 - The Middle Archaic Site of Pernil Alto, Southern Peru: The beginnings of horticulture and sedentariness in mid-Holocene conditions

Sedentariness and agriculture emerged in Peru during the preceramic Middle Archaic Period (8000-5000 BP). These developments are not completely understood, but formed a basis for the following Late Archaic Period when first complex societies emerged on the central coast. They are certainly impacted by the climatic conditions of the mid-Holocene.

This paper combines the archaeological information from the recently excavated Middle Archaic site of Pernil Alto in the today arid zone of Southern Peru with the available paleoclimatic information. The site dates to the end of the Middle Archaic Period (5800-5000 BP) and is situated in the fertile river valley of the Río Grande. While most known sites of the period lie on the Pacific shore or in the highlands, Pernil Alto lies in an intermediate zone.

The information obtained from archaeological intra-site and artefact analysis and the results of additional analysis (macrobotany, molluscs, fauna) are set in the context of the paleoclimatic conditions.

Pernil Alto was a permanent hamlet with remains of dwellings, graves and various artefacts. There are some remains of seashells and game, but the use of plants in this “off-coast” site played a major role in the subsistence. The remains of domesticated (limabean, common bean, sweet potato) and wild plants (mainly huarango) together with findings of grinding stones, mortars and digging sticks demonstrate the importance of plant use and horticulture. This was made possible by more humid conditions than today that were used by the inhabitants for the establishment of first permanent settlements in the hinterland of the Pacific coast of Southern Peru.

The new information forms a puzzle piece in the understanding of how agriculture and sedentary life emerged in the Central Andes and which developments led to the later emergence of complex societies on the central coast.

Palabras claves: Archaic Period, Peru, Horticulture

Autores: Gorbahn, Hermann (Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" CAU Kiel, Germany / Deutschland)

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