Agriculture and Empire in the High-Altitude Atacama Desert


How did prehispanic farmers make a living in the hyperarid, high-altitude Atacama Desert, and how did their lives and landscapes change under different political regimes? In this paper, we discuss our ongoing project on irrigated landscapes in the interfluvial region between the Upper Loa and Salado rivers in northern Chile. Research has focused on two sites (Paniri and Topaín) with remarkably well preserved spring-fed canal and terrace systems and a residential and administrative center (Turi) that were occupied in the Late Intermediate (ca. 1000 – 1400 AD) through Inka (ca. 1400-1540 AD) periods. How did Late Intermediate farmers manage water, crops, and labor and how were these practices transformed under the Inka? Our interdisciplinary effort to address these questions has included mapping, test excavations, attempts to date agricultural features, examination of agricultural soils, archaeobotanical analysis, and paleoenvironmental studies based on geological survey and pollen and diatom analyses. We report on our preliminary findings, analytical and interpretive challenges, and planned future research.

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Cite this Record

Agriculture and Empire in the High-Altitude Atacama Desert. Frances Hayashida, Andrés Troncoso, Diego Salazar, César Parcero-Oubiña, Pastor Fábrega-Álvarez. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396006)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;