Insights into changing coastlines, environments and marine hunter-gatherer lifestyles on the Pacific coast of South America from the La Yerba II shell midden, Río Ica estuary, Peru

David G. Beresford-Jones, David E. Friesem, Fraser Sturt, Alexander Pullen, George Chauca, Justin Moat, Manuel Gorriti, Patricia K. Maita, Delphine Joly, Oliver Huaman, Kevin J. Lane, Charles French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Shell middens are conspicuous manifestations of the exploitation of rich, sustainable, easily seen and harvested marine resources that, worldwide, enabled hunter-gatherers to reduce mobility and increase population and social complexity. Globally, known sites tend to cluster chronologically around 6 k BP, after slowing eustatic sea-level rise, although the Pacific coast of South America offers some rare earlier exceptions. We report investigations of La Yerba II, a Middle Preceramic shell matrix site on the Río Ica estuary, south coast Peru. These show how, beginning around 7000 Cal BP, over 4.5 m of stratigraphy accumulated in less than 500 years. Consisting of prepared surfaces, indurated floors and the ashy interiors of wind shelters and their associated midden deposits, alternating with phases of abandonment, this was the outcome of an intense rhythm of repeated occupations by logistically mobile marine hunter-gatherers. Final phases, dominated by Mesodesma surf clams, mark change towards more task-specific activities. La Yerba II's topographic position and well-preserved cultural and environmental markers provide insight into the local history of relative sea level change and changing marine hunter-gatherer lifestyles during a period critical to the transition to sedentism and the formation of new estuarine and beach habitats following the stabilisation of eustatic sea-levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107509
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume285
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Daniel Sandweiss and two anonymous reviewers for their many useful suggestions on this paper; all the members of Cambridge University's One River Project; the Ministerio de Cultura del Per? for granting permission for archaeological fieldwork (under Resolucion Directoral No. 933-2012-DGPC-VMPCIC/MC, 19 December 2012) and the export of samples for dating; the director of the Museo Regional de Ica Susana Arce; Alberto Benavides G. and the people of Samaca; the Leverhulme Trust (grant number RPG-117); the late Don Alberto Benavides de la Quintana (grant number RG69428); and the NERC Radiocarbon facility (grant number NF/2013/2/2) for funding. We also thank Dr Tonko Rajkova?a of the McBurney Laboratory for making thin sections; and the ALS Chemex Laboratory, Seville, Spain, for multi-element results.

Funding Information:
We thank Daniel Sandweiss and two anonymous reviewers for their many useful suggestions on this paper; all the members of Cambridge University's One River Project; the Ministerio de Cultura del Perú for granting permission for archaeological fieldwork (under Resolucion Directoral No. 933-2012-DGPC-VMPCIC/MC, 19 December 2012) and the export of samples for dating; the director of the Museo Regional de Ica Susana Arce; Alberto Benavides G. and the people of Samaca; the Leverhulme Trust (grant number RPG-117 ); the late Don Alberto Benavides de la Quintana (grant number RG69428); and the NERC Radiocarbon facility (grant number NF/2013/2/2 ) for funding. We also thank Dr Tonko Rajkovača of the McBurney Laboratory for making thin sections; and the ALS Chemex Laboratory, Seville, Spain, for multi-element results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

Keywords

  • Floor surfaces
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Holocene
  • Marine hunter-gatherers
  • Middle Preceramic
  • Pacific coast South America
  • Relative sea level
  • Shell midden archaeology

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