Huaca Prieta

Huaca Prieta

 

the remains of a settlement dating from the second half of the third and the first half of the second millennium B.C., situated at the mouth of the Chicama River on the coast of Peru. Excavations have uncovered the remains of small subterranean dwellings, stone implements, and fragments of cloth and fishing nets. Pottery was not yet known. Also found were early examples of ancient Peruvian art: depictions of human beings, condors, snakes, and crabs carved on gourds or woven in cloth. Fishing and gathering were the chief occupations of the inhabitants. Evidence of the cultivation of cotton, gourds, squash, chili peppers, and beans was found in Huaca Prieta, the first known example of plant cultivation in a culture ignorant of pottery. Remains have been discovered on the Peruvian coast that belong to the same culture as that of Huaca Prieta.

REFERENCES

Berezkin, Iu. E. “Nachalo zemledeliia na peruanskom poberezh’e.” Sovetskaia arkheologiia, 1969, no. 1.
Bird, J. B. “Pre-ceramic Cultures in Chicama and Virú.” In A Reappraisal of Peruvian Archaeology. Assembled by W. C. Bennett. (Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology, no. 4.) Menasha, Wis., 1948.
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One of the early coastal monuments is Huaca Prieta, a large stone and earthen mound measuring 138 x 62 x 32m, built on the southern point of a remnant Pleistocene terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean and estuarine wetlands and the delta plain of the Chicama River valley (Bird et al.
Huaca Prieta was first excavated by Junius Bird in the 1940s and radiocarbon dated to between ~5302 and 1933 cal BP in the 1950s (Figure 2; Table 1).
Until now, the broader importance of Bird's pioneering work at Huaca Prieta has been constrained by few radiocarbon dates and cursory study of the site's environment, stratigraphy and chronology, architecture and off-mound activity.
Thus, the majority of our work was located in areas not probed by Bird, such as the lower and upper south side of the site and deposits buried underneath later Cupisnique and Moche mounds (~3500-1500 cal years ago) located immediately north of Huaca Prieta.
We also carried out block excavations at Paredones, a smaller 30 x 70m mound located 1km north of Huaca Prieta (Figure 3).
Our recent palaeoecological studies indicate that the environs of Huaca Prieta are defined by the interface of several geo-climatic settings, which present diverse natural resources (Dillehay et al.
When these drainages reach the ocean and mix with its salty tidal water, numerous estuary systems are formed between 2 and 20km north of Huaca Prieta.
All radiocarbon dates from Huaca Prieta and Paredones were taken on single chunks of wood charcoal, maize and cotton textiles recovered from features embedded in floors.
The terminal Pleistocene materials are buried in the upper surface deposits of the ancient terrace upon which the mound sits at Huaca Prieta.
Huaca Prieta was a place where several important architectural, technological and artistic innovations took place.
Huaca Prieta is an enigma in Andean archaeology because it currently has no known antecedents, either on the ancient terrace (see SOL 5) or further afield.
The archaeological record and particularly the age and construction of the mound at Huaca Prieta contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that the Early to Middle Holocene period in the Central Andes was a complex mosaic of different economies and social forms.