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Dating the Late Archaic occupation of the Norte Chico region in Peru Jonathan Haas, Winifred Creamer & Alvaro Ruiz Nature 432, 1020-1023 doi:10.1038/nature03146

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Abstract

The Norte Chico region on the coast of Peru north of Lima consists of four adjacent river valleys—Huaura, Supe, Pativilca and Fortaleza—in which archaeologists have been aware of a number of apparently early sites for more than 40 years (refs 1– 3). To clarify the early chronology in this region, we undertook fieldwork in 2002 and 2003 to determine the dates of occupation of sites in the Fortaleza and Pativilca valleys. Here we present 95 new radiocarbon dates from a sample of 13 of more than 20 large, early sites. These sites share certain basic characteristics, including large-scale monumental architecture, extensive residential architecture and a lack of ceramics. The 95 new dates confirm the emergence and development of a major cultural complex in this region during the Late Archaic period between 3000 and 1800 calibrated calendar years bc. The results help to redefine a broader understanding of the respective roles of agricultural and fishing economies in the beginnings of civilization in South America.

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... The Norte Chico or Caral-Supe Civilization (3500 BC) was located in the coastal region of modern day northern Peru and is often cited as the earliest settlement in Americas and lasted until approximately 1800 BC [30][31]. Among the civilization's most prominent achievements were their impressive architecture, textiles, and medicine. ...
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... Intuitively, colonising groups inhabiting the range of biomes between the coastal strip and the highlands would have been required, over time, to deploy a similarly diverse set of strategies in the face of a potentially rapidly changing world (Aldenderfer 1999;Sandweiss 2003;Sandweiss et al. 2007). By the end of the preceramic period, complex and semisedentary societies are evident from the settlement, monumental, and bioarchaeological records (Shady Solis et al. 2001;Haas et al. 2004;Pozorski and Pozorski 2008;. This wealth of new data available to archaeologists and the explicit references to population growth models by Rick (1987) provide useful starting points for the following investigation. ...
Article
This paper adopts a formal model-testing approach to the Peruvian radiocarbon (14C) record, the site of the first aggregate analysis of this type of archaeological data. Using a large and improved regional dataset of radiometric determinations (n = 1180) from the period 14000–3000 14C years before present, the study performs a comparative analysis of the demographic trajectories of two sub-regions, the desert coast and Andean highlands. Against the backdrop of theoretical models of population growth, and controlling for taphonomic factors and sampling biases, the study performs global significance and permutation tests on the data. These provide a necessary measure of statistical confidence that have hereto been absent from the discussion of pre-Columbian demography. Contrary to the findings of prior work, this study of radiocarbon data in Peru reveals that regional trends in the data are statistically indistinguishable. Further testing and comparison to climate archives is able to illustrate sustained population growth over the entire Holocene epoch in this region, with only a few notable exceptions at the end of the mid-Holocene (5000 cal BP). The findings of the analysis are viewed in relation to the cultural and technological changes that indigenous societies experienced in the timeframe in question, and some directions for methodological advances are suggested.
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