Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This dissertation focuses on the Cosma Complex, a multi-component archaeological site located at the headwaters of the Nepeña River, on the western slopes of the Cordillera Negra in the modern Department of Ancash, Peru. The overarching goal of this study is to understand not only Cosma’s influence as a religious center within the Nepeña Valley and the surrounding region, but its recurring occupation over a 5000-year time span and its role in religious networks within the valley through its function as a cultural landscape resource or persistent place.

The Cosma complex extends over 250 hectares and includes two multi-storied temple mounds, a megalithic hilltop fortress, domestic areas, agricultural terraces, above ground tombs, and carved stonework. The center is geographically located in a propitious locale, 2650 meters above sea level (masl) in a flat mountain basin at the start of the Cosma branch of the Nepeña River. Cosma’s construction in a geographically isolated basin at the headwaters of the valley may have added weight to its status as a ceremonial center, allowing it to function as a pilgrimage center.

Through field survey and archaeological excavations as well as the analysis of material remains, this dissertation; (1) reconstructs the site’s occupational sequence, (2) explores its spatial organization and architectural forms through time, and (3) documents associated material remains in order to reconstruct cultural and religious affiliations. These lines of evidence are used to discuss Late Preceramic religious developments, in particular a significant Kotosh-Mito presence.

Located in a transitional zone, between the highlands and the coast, the Cosma complex has been interpreted as an important center for studying Late Preceramic architectural styles. Utilizing Cosma as a case-study, this dissertation re-evaluates the criteria previously established for Mito and “pre-Mito” structures, paying attention to localized variations of the tradition, as opposed to chronological markers. Following the Late Preceramic use at the Cosma complex, the mounds again functioned as a stage for ceremonial practice during the Early Horizon Period and Middle Horizon for burial purposes. This dissertation presents this data under the auspice of persistent place and ritual gathering within the basin.



Committee Chair

Chicoine, David