Verticality in the Andes – the economic model of the Paracas society (800 to 200 BC) in southern Peru

→ Christian Mader

The economic adaption to different ecological spheres in accordance to altitude is widely called verticalityin the Andes. This model has been described by John V. Murra and delivers an explanation of how the economic usage in the Andean area could have looked like in the past. The varied region of the Andes in terms of scenery is spanning diverse ecological zones from the pacific coast in the west through the highlands to the lowland rainforest in the east. Each of these ecological zones can be used for different economic activities depending on the availability of raw materials and the agricultural suitability. Underlying processes of production, exchange and transportation needed the controlofa coherent group. John V. Murra developed his ideas about verticality in the Andean area considering ethnohistorical sources in the 1970s. Since then his concept has been applied in many related disciplines including archaeology. Even though there has been a considerable amount of documented findings which do support the hypothesis of the vertical model during pre-Columbian times, a systematic archaeologicalexaminationis still missing.

In the course of the Nasca-Palpa-Projects in southern Peru, settlements of the Paracas society (800 to 200 BC) have been recently recorded in various ecological zones. The archaeological excavations in selected Paracas settlements revealed material which is appropriate for the investigation of economic processes and in the end the model of verticality. The most important archaeological sites are Jauranga (305 metres above sea level) in the coastal area, Collanco (1700 metres above sea level) in the Yunga Maritima zone of the western Andean slopes and Cutamalla (between 3200 and 3300 metres above sea level) in the highland Quechua zone. The materials include lithic remains like obsidian, malacological products like shells, animal remains like bones of camelids and several agricultural products like maize. These material groups will be documented, further analysed by natural-scientific methods and evaluated.

This project wants to scrutinize the concept of verticality as an economic system in the pre-Hispanic Andes. Archaeological data from southern Peru and the Paracas erais thereforeconsulted. In doing so, settlement functions of distinct ecological zones will be taken into account and places of production and consumption as well as routes of distribution shall be demonstrated.By systematically examining the widely recognized model of economic verticality, a basis for the understanding of the pre-Colonial economic principles in the Andes will be created which is necessary for future discussions on verticality.

 

 

 

 

Dissertation
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube, Prof. Dr. Martin Bentz, Dr. Markus Reindel