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The earliest fortified settlements of the south coast of Peru

Faculty Advisor




warfare, fortifications, human decapitation, south coast of Peru, Early Intermediate Period

Abstract (summary)

Within Peruvian archaeology, warfare is a seldom discussed topic, and the south coast region is not an exception. As a result, there is the impression that violent conflict had little or no role in the development of complex socie-ties, such as Paracas and Nasca. An exception is the case of the bodiless human skulls, called “trophies.” Besides the trophies that may, or may not, have resulted from violent conflict, other material manifestations of warfare, such as fortifications and buffer zones, remain unknown. This paper traces the origins of warfare in this region. Considering that the earliest trophy heads come from late Paracas contexts and the earliest manifestations of structures identifiable as monumental buildings also appear for the first time around late Paracas, a starting point for this analysis is the Paracas culture that preceded the Nasca culture. In particular, I review settlement data and site configuration to answer critical questions about when and where warfare emerged in the region. In contrast to the valleys of Ica and Nasca, for instance, evidence from Acari indicates that violent conflict emerged early in the Early Intermediate Period as manifested in large fortified settlements and human decapitation on a scale that is unknown in Ica and Nasca.

Publication Information



Presented on November 8–11, 2012 at the 45th Annual Chacmool Archaeological Conference held at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta.

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