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Where the Land Meets the Sea

Where the Land Meets the Sea
Fourteen Millennia of Human History at Huaca Prieta, Peru

This landmark, interdisciplinary volume on the excavation of one of the longest-occupied yet most enigmatic sites in human history sheds new light on how civilization began among farmers and fishermen some fourteen thousand years ago.

August 2017
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832 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 9 color and 98 b&w photos, 33 b&w illus., 16 b&w maps, 26 b&w charts/graphs |

Huaca Prieta—one the world’s best-known, yet least understood, early maritime mound sites—and other Preceramic sites on the north coast of Peru bear witness to the beginnings of civilization in the Americas. Across more than fourteen millennia of human occupation, the coalescence of maritime, agricultural, and pastoral economies in the north coast settlements set in motion long-term biological and cultural transformations that led to increased social complexity and food production, and later the emergence of preindustrial states and urbanism. These developments make Huaca Prieta a site of global importance in world archaeology.

This landmark volume presents the findings of a major archaeological investigation carried out at Huaca Prieta, the nearby mound Paredones, and several Preceramic domestic sites in the lower Chicama Valley between 2006 and 2013 by an interdisciplinary team of more than fifty international specialists. The book’s contributors report on and analyze the extensive material records from the sites, including data on the architecture and spatial patterns; floral, faunal, and lithic remains; textiles; basketry; and more. Using this rich data, they build new models of the social, economic, and ontological practices of these early peoples, who appear to have favored cooperation and living in harmony with the environment over the accumulation of power and the development of ruling elites. This discovery adds a crucial new dimension to our understanding of emergent social complexity, cosmology, and religion in the Neolithic period.


2018 SAA Book Award, Society for American Archaeology

  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1. Relevance (Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 2. Foundational Understandings (Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 3. Research Design (Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 4. The Environmental Setting, Past and Present (Patricia J. Netherly and Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 5. Holocene Geology and Paleoenvironmental History of the Lower Chicama Valley (Steven L. Goodbred Jr., Rachel Beavins, Michael Ramírez, Mario Pino, André Oliveira Sawakuchi, Claudio Latorre, Tom D. Dillehay, and Duccio Bonavia)
  • Chapter 6. Cultural Phases and Radiocarbon Chronology (Tom D. Dillehay and Duccio Bonavia)
  • Chapter 7. Site Data and Patterns (Tom D. Dillehay, Duccio Bonavia, Gabino Rodríguez, Gerson Levi-Lazzarus, Daniel Fernandes Moreira, Marilaura López Solís, Paige Silcox, and Kristin Benson)
  • Chapter 8. Bioarchaeology of the Huaca Prieta Remains (Anne R. Titelbaum and John W. Verano)
  • Chapter 9. Faunal Remains (Víctor F. Vásquez, Teresa Rosales Tham, Patricia J. Netherly, and Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 10. Plant Remains (Duccio Bonavia, Víctor F. Vásquez, Teresa Rosales Tham, Patricia J. Netherly, Tom D. Dillehay, and Kristin Benson)
  • Chapter 11. Nontextile and Nonbasketry Material Culture (Tom D. Dillehay and Duccio Bonavia)
  • Chapter 12. Twined and Woven Artifacts
    • Part 1: Textiles (Jeffrey Splitstoser)
    • Part 2: Basketry and Cordage from Huaca Prieta (Jeff Illingworth and J. M. Adovasio)
  • Chapter 13. Outlying Domestic House Mound Sites (Greg Maggard and Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 14. Continuity, Change, and the Construction of the Early Sangamon Society (Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Chapter 15. Beyond Matter to Foundations and Representations (Tom D. Dillehay)
  • Appendices
    • 1. Stratigraphy, Sedimentology, and Chronology at Huaca Prieta (Mario Pino)
    • 2. Charcoal Analysis (Isabel Rey)
    • 3. Marine Shell Analysis for Seasonality (Teresa C. Franco)
    • 4. Chili Pepper Distribution and Use (Katherine L. Chiou, Christine A. Hastorf, Víctor F. Vásquez, Teresa Rosales Tham, Duccio Bonavia, and Tom D. Dillehay)
    • 5. Maize Analysis (Duccio Bonavia and Alexander Grobman)
    • 6. Dietary Ecology, Stable Isotope, and Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (Larisa R. G. DeSantis, Tom D. Dillehay, Steven L. Goodbred Jr., and Robert S. Feranec)
    • 7. Phytolith Analysis (José Iriarte and Jennifer Watling)
    • 8. Sand and Salt Samples from Huaca Prieta (Mario Pino)
    • 9. Starch Grains (Dolores R. Piperno, Timothy Messner, and Irene Holst)
    • 10. Human Skeletal Remains from Various Excavations (Anne R. Titelbaum and John W. Verano)
    • 11. Pigment Analysis (Jeff Illingworth, Jack Williams, and Michelle L. Farley)
    • 12. Pollen Analysis (Linda Scott Cummings)
    • 13. Fish Otoliths from Huaca Prieta (Elise Dufour, Olivier Trombret, and Philippe Béarez)
    • 14. Semele corrugata Microstructure and Oxygen Isotope Profiles as Indicators of Seasonality (Jeixin Wei, C. Fred T. Andrus, and Alberto Pérez-Huerta)
    • 15. Geophysical Prospection at Huaca Prieta and Paredones (Phil Mink)
    • 16. Preliminary Use-Wear Study of Stone Tools (Tom D. Dillehay)
    • 17. Estimating Haplogroup Affiliation through Ancient mtDNA Analysis from the Huaca Prieta Burials (Tiffiny A. Tung, Jessica Blair, Marshal Summar, Raúl Tito, and Cecil Lewis)
    • 18. Soil Chemistry Analysis (Anonymous)
    • 19. SEM-XRF Analysis of Green Stone (Steven L. Goodbred Jr. and Tom D. Dillehay)
  • References
  • List of Contributors
  • Index

Nashville, Tennessee

Dillehay is the Rebecca Webb Wilson University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Religion, and Culture and Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of twenty books, including The Settlement of the Americas: A New Prehistory.


“This volume is a foundational landmark, and can be used to teach students both at undergraduate and graduate levels to provide guidance for how to conduct and publish future archaeological research.”

“The contributors to this engrossing book reveal the ancient Andeans' culinary habits, artistic practices, and social organization at what Dillehay labels 'one of the most complex prepottery' coastal sites ever discovered.”
Foreign Affairs, Best Books of 2018

“This will be a landmark volume in the analysis and interpretation of early human occupation and exploitation of Peru’s resource-rich maritime, littoral, and near-coastal environments. The contributors are experienced investigators, and many are well-recognized specialists in their respective fields, which includes a broad spectrum of archaeological and allied disciplines. This empirically rich research will have a long-term impact on our understanding of regional historical processes in Preceramic coastal Peru, the appearance and use-history of agricultural domesticates, and the role of environmental variability and resource stratification in processes of human demographic expansion and patterning. The data presentations and interpretations dramatically expand our knowledge base concerning the origins, patterning, and complexity of early human adaptations to changing environmental regimes in coastal Peru.”
Alan L. Kolata, University of Chicago, author of many books, including Ancient Inca: Case Studies in Early Societies, The Tiwanaku: Portrait of an Andean Civilization, and Valley of the Spirits: A Journey into the Lost Realm of the Aymara

“This is really two archaeology books in one—an edited volume conveying an important new interpretation of the dawn of civilization in the Andes, and a highly valuable excavation and multidisciplinary analytical report on one of the region’s most important sites. It will be an essential source for all Andean scholars and a companion to classic works such as Junius Bird’s Huaca Prieta volumes.”
Paul Goldstein, University of California, San Diego, author of Andean Diaspora: The Tiwanaku Colonies and the Origins of South American Empire


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