Context

The Andes Mountains of South America is one of six world areas (Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, Mesoamerica, and the Andes) where “civilization” emerged in the ancient world under largely endogenous conditions. Of the many definitions of “civilization”, the descriptive list put forth by the archaeologist V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957) has greatly influenced the field of archaeology. According to Childe, these definitive traits include:

 Social stratification

 Urban settlements

 Monumental architecture

 Craft specialization

 Agriculture

 Religion

 Writing

 Art

Government

Trade networks

Since the latter half of the 20th-century, archaeologists have criticized cultural checklists like those proposed by Childe. They argue that societies, like individual human beings, should not be pigeonholed into discrete categories. However, archaeologists interested in cross-cultural comparison have adopted the term “complex polity” to describe societies that Childe might consider a civilization. Therefore, a “complex polity (or society)” is one that contains “many different parts and many different social, economic, and political roles, including centralized leadership” (Haas and Creamer 2006: 745).

This website documents archaeological research at the Late Archaic Period (3000-1800 B.C.) site of Huaricanga in the Fortaleza Valley of Peru’s north central coast. The north central coast of Peru is known locally as the Norte Chico, or “Little North.” It was here, in the Norte Chico, where the first complex societies in the Andes emerged over 5,000 years ago.

Measuring over two football fields in length, the main mound at Huaricanga is the largest man-made Late Archaic construction in the Norte Chico. The labor input and building materials required to construct this monumental architecture is a hallmark of cultural complexity.

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