Share on Facebook
 
 
 
Share on Twitter
 
 
 
Share on Google Plus
 
 
 
Share on Pinterest
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cultural Landscapes and Paleoenvironmental Change at the end of the Pleistocene: The Earliest Peopling of the Atacama Desert and its Descendent Until Present
 
 
 
 

Cultural Landscapes and Paleoenvironmental Change at the end of the Pleistocene: The Earliest Peopling of the Atacama Desert and its Descendent Until Present

 
Dr. Calogero M. Santoro
 
Instituto de Alta Investigación, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile
 
 

After the last glacial maximum (ca. 17,000 to 10,000-9,000 years cal B.P.) America had exceptional conditions for hunter-gatherer groups. The Pampa del Tamarugal (PdT), in the core of the Atacama Desert in northernmost Chile was full of vegetation and animals that flourished as consequence of an abnormal increase in rainfall in the high Andes that flowed toward the Pacific. The permanent riparian flows and subterranean water enabled dense network of gallery forests, oases and springs that housed fauna currently extinct (such as megaterium, American horse, palaeollama) and modern extirpated taxa (vicuñas, guanaco, birds and rodents). The first immigrants who arrived around 13,000 expanded over this Pampa. Sooner they learned how to manage local regional and supra-regional resources applying different technologies to all kind of materials, to produce different artifacts. Besides typical snapped stones, the extraordinary conservation of organic material have allowed us to find remains of cordage and weaving made out of plant and animal fibers, human hair, mineral pigments, sea shells used as ornaments, bone artifacts, and carved wood. The first human inhabitants of the Pampa (pampinos) generated a whole socio-cultural world and circuits of mobility and social interaction that reached the Pacific coast, high Andean territories (80 to 100 km away respectively) and beyond into the eastern Andean valleys and the tropical forest (800 km).

Around 10,000 to 9,000 cal year B.P. this ecosystem collapsed and people moved away from the PdT toward the coast and the Andes, where inter-independent way of life were developed. Around 3,500 cal years B.P. another pluvial anomaly made people to come back to the PdT as former wetland and ravines flourished, with less water flow though. As hunting gathering strategies were not sufficient to support an increasing number of people that demanded a wide range of goods (pottery, textiles, metal objects, baskets, etc.), a strong transformative program that encompassed cultivated crops and trees were introduced and artificially irrigated in the Atacama Desert. This economy was complemented by fish and shellfish brought from the Pacific coast. This sedentary way of life that remained until ca. 1000 years cal BP, and its concomitants green revolution, produced major ecological transformations of certain fertile loci within the Desert. All of the crops we buy and consume today from local farming were introduced in that epoch (for instance maize, beans, chili peppers, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes), including an iconic fruit tree, the algarrobo (cfr. carob tree) as well as the chañar.

The extended abstract and supplementary material