Pigment Mining for Color Meanings: El Condor Mine from Atacama Desert (A.D. 300-1.500)


The mineralogical richness of the Atacama Desert allowed for the development of an important set of mining-extracting and metallurgic, lapidaric and pigmental productive activities, which became significant activities in the sociocultural dynamics of desert dwellers. El Cóndor mine, an important hematite source located in the middle section of the Loa River, was exploited from the Formative Period (~A.D. 300) until Inka times (~A.D. 1500). In contrast to other mining sites in Atacama, El Cóndor presents a variety of activity areas: extraction pits, processing areas with multiple anvils and grinding tools, semicircular structures, and combustion zones—in addition to large dispersion of red powder spread across its surface. The production was initially developed as a craft, intensifying during later periods (since ~A.D. 1200) due to the increase in pigment values and the scale of consumption at regional and also supra-regional levels. El Cóndor mine constitutes an interesting example of a large-scale hematite operation because it articulated important exchange and relationship networks, and also serves as a relevant case for evaluating and discussing local miners negotiations during the productive reorganization after the Inka expansion to the region.

Cite this Record

Pigment Mining for Color Meanings: El Condor Mine from Atacama Desert (A.D. 300-1.500). Benjamín Ballester, Marcela Sepúlveda, Francisco Gallardo, Gloria Cabello, Estefanía Vidal. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429700)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16122