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The Impact of Climate Dynamics and Cultural Change on the Demography and Population Structure of Pre-Columbian Populations in the Atacama

Author(s): Lars Fehren-Schmitz ; Kelly Harkins

Year: 2017

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Summary

Archaeological studies in the Central Andes have pointed at the temporal coincidence of climatic fluctuations and episodes of cultural transition throughout the pre-Columbian period. Although most scholars explain the connection between environmental and cultural changes by the impact of climatic alterations on the capacities of the ecosystems inhabited by pre-Columbian cultures, direct evidence for assumed demographic consequences has been missing so far. Desert margin areas, as we find them at the Andean foothills and along the Pacific coastline of the Atacama are ideal research areas to study the dynamic relationship of climate and demography because they are reactive ecosystems with low resilience. Thus, even minor climatic changes can force these ecosystems into transition potentially altering the ecological conditions for the populations living in them. Here we present a large body of mitochondrial and genome wide genetic data from pre-Columbian populations living at the fringes of the Atacama. We test demographic models informed by genomic, paleoclimatic, and archaeological data and show that especially in later pre-Columbian phases climatic changes do coincide with demographic transitions and migration events. We conclude that increasing socioeconomic complexity and agricultural specialization increased the vulnerability of populations living in the desert margin ecosystems of the Atacama.


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The Impact of Climate Dynamics and Cultural Change on the Demography and Population Structure of Pre-Columbian Populations in the Atacama. Lars Fehren-Schmitz, Kelly Harkins. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431028)


Keywords

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): 16598

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America