Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



This dissertation examines the development of social complexity in the ancient Andes of South America through the multiproxy analysis of macrofloral and macrofaunal ecofacts. I approach plants and animals through their entanglements with human domestic and political economies, particularly via the exploration of foodways. This multiproxy analysis begins by viewing the floral and faunal remains at a single site and then expands to a multisite study to consider broader regional questions.

I examine macrofloral and macrofaunal ecofacts recovered using multiple methods at Caylán (600–200 BCE), an Early Horizon settlement in the lower Nepeña Valley on the north-central coast of Peru. I compare the plant and animal ecofacts recovered from excavations via dry sieving with a single mesh screen size, recovered from soil samples via dry sieving with multiple mesh screen sizes, and recovered from rehydrated fecal samples via wet sieving. These various methods reveal different flora and fauna which were present at Caylán, providing a broader understanding of the connections between humans and animals at this settlement. These results are then compared with the plant and animal ecofacts recovered at Huambacho (600–200 BCE) and Samanco (500–1 BCE), coeval lower Nepeña Valley settlements.

Results indicate that exchange occurred between coastal and inland sites and that both terrestrial and marine resources were utilized, including resources from wetland environments which are often overlooked. The plant and animal assemblages found at different locations within Caylán and at each settlement suggest heterarchical social structures. This research challenges traditional views that only certain special species were important for Andean cultures. I suggest that a broader assemblage of plants and animals were associated with ancient Andean sites. I also suggest that multiple related methods provide a better understanding of the species which were present, and that a multisite approach allows the exploration of questions concerning regional exchange, social interactions, and subsistence strategies which would not be possible by only studying a single settlement. Broadly, this dissertation’s insights into heterogenous and heterarchical human-plant-animal entanglements question traditional narratives that situate the development of social complexity in terms of linear, hierarchical progress.



Committee Chair

Chicoine, David

Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2031