A Prehistory of South America
Ancient Cultural Diversity on the Least Known Continent
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University Press of Colorado
Title Page, Quote, Copyright Page, Dedication
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You are living in a golden age of South American archaeology, a period of profound transformations in archaeological knowledge of the continent. A Prehistory of South America: Ancient Cultural Diversity on the Least Known Continent introduces you to the amazingly diverse achievements of ancient...
1. Archaeology in South America: A Brief Historical Overview
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Current archaeological knowledge builds on several centuries of interest in the antiquities and monuments of South America, although interest motivated by very different goals and practices. The first European descriptions of South American objects and sites were the by-products of conquest. Soldiers...
2. The Brave New World: Environmental Diversity in South America
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South America is characterized by diversity, as measured on every conceivable dimension. From the Isthmus of Panama to Tierra del Fuego, the continent stretches between the latitudes of 12° N and 55° S and the longitudes of 35° and 80° W. It encompasses more than 17.8 million km2 (6.87 million square miles), approximately...
3. The Last Ancient Homeland: The Peopling of South America
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In 1927, when a team of excavators at a site near Folsom, New Mexico, discovered an in situ projectile point between the ribs of an extinct Pleistocene species of American buffalo (Bison antiquus), the implication was obvious: humans had arrived in the Americas thousands of years ago.1 The Folsom...
4. Archaic Adaptations
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The termArchaic implies more than the word archaic: “antiquated,” “surviving from an earlier period,” or “characteristic of the past.” For archaeologists working in the Americas, the Archaic refers to the period after the initial, Paleoindian occupation of the continents and before the development of settled...
5. Origins and Consequences of Agriculture in South America
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The origin of agriculture has long been an important domain of archaeological research. Ever since the British archaeologist V. Gordon Childe famously defined “the Neolithic Revolution”—the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture that was akin to the Industrial Revolution in its transformative...
6. Social Complexities: Part I
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This chapter and chapter 7 present a continental overview of archaeological cases relating to the multifaceted topic “the origins of social complexity.” This topic has a long history in social theory, from Enlightenment philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes to nineteenth-century...
7. Social Complexities: Part II
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This chapter continues the discussion of the emergence of social complexity begun in chapter 6 but shifts to an examination of three regions: the coast of Peru, the Central Andean highlands, and the Titicaca Basin (figure 7.2). As discussed in chapter 1, these regions have been the focus of a great...
8. Regional Florescences
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As noted repeatedly, the prehistory of South America is characterized by diversity, and that continued to be the case even after the development of sedentism and agricultural economies. There is a tendency to view South American prehistory as if the development of agrarian states and empires...
9. Age of States and Empires
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When Spaniards invaded western South America in the early sixteenth century, they encountered one of the most impressive civilizations in the ancient world: the Inca Empire. Francisco Pizarro and his men captured the Inca king, Atahualpa, and began the process of conquest. Although the fall of...
10. Twilight of Prehistory
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The last five centuries of South American prehistory were marked by fundamentally different social and political experiences across the continent, a previously unseen disparity in the scales of social life (figure 10.2). For example, along the coast of Tierra del Fuego, groups of mobile hunters and gatherer...
11. Empire of the Four Quarters
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Between approximately AD 1400 and 1535, a regional chiefdom in the southern Peruvian Andes expanded throughout western South America and in the process created the largest state in the pre-Columbian Americas. Its members called their empire Tawantinsuyu, which means the “four (tawa) portions...
12. After Prehistory
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Within a decade of Columbus’s voyages to the Indies, Europe’s attempt to understand the native people of South America began, an effort deeply entangled with the goals of conquest, subjugation, and domination. It was neither a dispassionate intellectual quest nor a particularly well-informed one...
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Any text that attempts to summarize the prehistory of a continent is necessarily based on the kindness of strangers and friends. First, I thank the hundreds of scholars who conducted the archaeological investigations discussed...
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Page Count: 496
Illustrations: 261 figures
Publication Year: 2014