5767 - The Prehistory of Coastal Northern Chile: The Development of a Coastal Economy

The hyper aridity of northern Chile is such that early settlement was dependent on an environment with almost no terrestrial resources but, fortunately, diverse and abundant marine resources. The early social groups that developed in this area relied heavily on an economy that was based on marine hunting, fishing, and collecting. However, did such a dependency on the sea result in a specialist 'maritime' economy derived from an old generalised hunting and foraging cultural tradition or were the first settlers already adapted to an economy that focussed on marine resources - ie, were they migrants arriving via a coastal route. Moseley (1975) suggested that a successful maritime economy enabled coastal Peruvians to escalate a complex sedentary life well before the advent of agriculture. While this theory has been debated and challenged, more recent discoveries (Quebrada Tacahuay, Quebrada Jaguay and Quebrada Los Burros) show that some of Peru's earliest inhabitants had a maritime specialized focus. Using stratigraphic data excavated at Caleta Vitor, a 300,000 m 2 shell midden of northern Chile, we examine this question by comparing the abundance and diversity of floral and faunal remains within the midden deposits; consider the expertise and technology required to exploit them; and discuss whether the evidence is indicative of a local development of a maritime economy or the continuation of an already established base.

Keywords: maritime economy, midden, Chile, , archaeology

Author: Christopher, Carter (Centro de Investigaciones del Desierto, Arica, Chile. Australian National University, Canberra, AUstralia, Australia / Australien)


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