Climate Change and Chiefdom Ecodynamics in the Eastern Andean Cordillera of Colombia

Author(s): Michael Smyth; Timothy Beach; Eric Weaver

Year: 2016


Exploratory research into climate change and the formation of chiefdoms took place in the Valley of Leiva. Preliminary findings from cultural-environmental contexts provide extraordinary interdisciplinary data. A stone-walled, oval-shaped elite building with compacted earthen floors, post-holes, and artifact-ecofact assemblages (decorated pottery, spindle whorls, deer fauna, and stone monoliths) was revealed near El Infiernito. Soil survey along the Rio Leyva produced evidence for major erosion and sedimentation events now being dated. Penetrating cores and deep horizontal trenches along the river floodplain discovered a possible irrigation canal associated with Prehispanic ceramics and an upright wood post from a buried house structure. Exploration of the Cueva de la Fábrica about 7 km to the north encountered active speleothems including stalagmites and water samples collected for paleoclimate reconstruction. Research will continue into the role of drought, erosion and sedimentation, flooding, and glacier dynamics. Early results suggest that atmospheric phenomena associated with the Southern Oscillation and its El Nino and La Nina episodes (ENSO) contributed to climatic variability in precipitation and temperature that would have altered highland glaciers, effected river levels, caused major erosion, and reconfigured landscape hydrology. Such environmental conditions would have greatly impacted the evolution of ranked societies dependent on irrigation.

Cite this Record

Climate Change and Chiefdom Ecodynamics in the Eastern Andean Cordillera of Colombia. Michael Smyth, Timothy Beach, Eric Weaver. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403901)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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