Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation examines agricultural strategies farmers employed to cope with the consequences of war and drought in the southern Peruvian Andes during the Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1100-1450) using paleoethnobotanical data from the fortified hilltop site Ayawiri and findings from excavations of a terrace complex flanking the site. During the Late Intermediate Period, lifeways dissolved into a period of endemic warfare after the collapse of Tiwanaku. At the same time a well-documented, century-long drought surely threatened food security. Interested in how farmers responded to this political and climatic disjuncture, I analyzed 108 flotation samples collected from the residential area of one of the largest hillfort communities in the region. Macrobotanical samples were collected from hearths, houses, kitchens, patios, and middens at Ayawiri. These data indicate that as trade networks broke down and imported lower elevation crops such as maize were no longer options during the Late Intermediate Period, residents turned to locally-grown crops including quinoa, potatoes and other tubers. I conducted multi-variate analysis of Chenopodium spp. seeds and found both quinoa and kañawa in copious quantities. Weedy chenopod seeds were very rare in these samples. These data contribute a deeper understanding of pre-Colonial crop selection, phenotypes, and weed management in the Andes. Macrobotanical data also contribute to an understanding of camelid grazing strategies employed during the Late Intermediate Period. Herds were intensively grazed in fields and foddered on crops and rarely brought to wetland microenvironments.

I carried out excavations and analysis of the form of the terrace complex that flanks the hillfort at Ayawiri to determine when the field complex was constructed and how farmers managed this landscape. Using a combination of ceramic sylistic seriation, AMS dating, and a novel application of optically stimulated luminescence dating I found that the terraces below the site were constructed during the Late Intermediate Period using household labor.

Macrobotanical data and information from the terrace excavations contribute two important conclusions about the impact of drought and consequences of warfare on lifeways during the Late Intermediate Period. First, the adoption of an intensification strategy – terrace farming – and a dependence on only a limited array of cultivars indicate the consequences of warfare profoundly influenced Ayawiri farming strategies. The local community built their fields and grazed their herds near their homes rather than taking advantage of lacustrine or riverine microenvironments, which would have buffered against crop loss due to climate unpredictability. Additionally, I recovered sling stones in the terraces indicating this built landscape served a defensive function. The second conclusion I came to is the expansive terrace system around the site did not require centralized labor to create or farm, but rather was the product of households adapting to the challenges of their time. In sum, this study provides an important understanding of agriculture, land use strategies, and sociopolitical organization of farm labor during the Late Intermediate Period.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Gayle J. Fritz, David L. Browman

Committee Members

Elizabeth N. Arkush, David A. Freidel, Fiona B. Marshall, Kenneth M. Olsen


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/doi:10.7936/K7GQ6W53