The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Mobility and dietary composition in Quillagua (northern Chile) during the Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000-1400)


1Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford, 2Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Museo, Universidad Católica del Norte, 3Departamento de Antropología, Universidad de Chile

Thursday 3:45-4:00, Galleria North Add to calendar

Quillagua is a small oasis located at the margins of the Loa River in northern Chile, 70 km from the Pacific coast. It has been intensively occupied since the Late Formative Period and archaeological research in the area has recovered evidence of significant cultural heterogeneity in Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000-1400) funerary contexts. This heterogeneity has been interpreted as a result of the direct influence of two different cultures in the oasis: the Tarapacá culture, which originates on the coast north of Quillagua; and the Atacameño culture, present in highland areas southeast of Quillagua. Here, we present the results of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen stable isotope analyses of 23 individuals recovered from Quillagua’s Cementerio Oriente (Eastern Cemetery). Our objective was to test whether the observed cultural heterogeneity was reflected in aspects of local diet and mobility patterns. Results from carbon and nitrogen isotopes show that there was an important consumption of marine proteins in the majority of individuals, with some also showing high C4 plant consumption (maize). Oxygen isotope results show very low 18O values for four individuals in the sample, which is suggestive of a possible highland origin, while the remaining individuals show 18O values consistent with coastal origins. Together, these results favor the idea that the Quillagua oasis represented an important interaction area, with close contact with the coastal environment and a significant presence of people from the interior.

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