Semester of Graduation

Fall 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Zooarchaeologists have documented the importance of marine resources in the ancient Andes, and the first field season at Cerro San Isidro (Ancash, Peru) proves no different. The multi- component hilltop archaeological complex lies in the agriculturally rich Moro Pocket of the middle Nepeña Valley, at least an eight-hour walk from the ocean on the north-central coast. Between June and August 2019, members of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica Cerro San Isidro carried out the first scientific excavations at this important ancient human settlement. Block excavations focused on a hypothesized elite compound, documenting intermittent occupations from the Late Formative (c. 600 BCE) through the Late Intermediate Period (c. 1400 CE).

This thesis reports on the zooarchaeological assemblages recovered during those excavations. Taxonomic analyses indicate that most identifiable vertebrate bones are camelids. Cutmarks and burning demonstrate that the animals provided food in addition to transportation. While both aquatic and terrestrial animals were uncovered, four marine bivalve species (rock- perching mussels Perumytilus purpuratus and Semimytilus algosus, and sand-dwelling clams Donax obesulus and Mesodesma donacium) dominate an assemblage that is taxonomically rich but not even. Relative frequencies of mollusk taxa and corresponding habitats resemble those of Late and Final Formative lower valley sites Huambacho, Caylán, and Samanco, suggesting that Cerro San Isidro residents sourced seafood from the same environments and enjoyed trade ties with neighboring groups in the coastal zone. While better chronological control is needed to understand how site residents' tastes may have changed over time, this thesis brings preliminary insight into ancient foodways in a previously understudied mid-altitude region of western Peru.

Committee Chair

David Chicoine