Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

Gayle Fritz


The Wankarani people are often cited as an example of early camelid pastoralism in South America. However, research on early camelid pastoralism has ignored the importance of plants, especially the cultivation of domesticated plants in this region. The Wankarani people lived in the central altiplano of the south-central Andes during the Formative period: 2000 B.C.-A.D. 400). Previous research has assumed that the Wankarani people were cultivating domestic plants. This research explores the evidence for both wild and domesticated plant use among the Wankarani while furthering the understanding of the development of subsistence strategies of pastoralists cultures. Using paleoethnobotanical methods of analysis of samples from three different sites, this research identifies wild plant use and domesticated plant use of the Wankarani. The samples analyzed were derived from excavations carried out in 2008 in the Department of Oruro, Bolivia by José Capriles, a doctoral candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. These data provide insight into the importance of the plant economy during the Formative period in the central altiplano. The identification of carbonized parenchyma: plant storage tissue) and seeds confirm that the Wankarani people cultivated tubers and Chenopodium plants. Furthermore, the high quantities of remains of these plants at all three sites are evidence that they were important components of the Wankarani economy. Preliminary analysis of chenopod seed demonstrates the cultivation of at least two domesticated Chenopodium species. In addition, a fungus that grew on tubers was identified. High quantities of carbonized tubers and fungus fragments indicate that the Wankarani struggled with a plant pathogen. These data confirm the importance of wild and domesticated plant use among the Wankarani peoples and the importance of plants to pastoral populations in the highlands of the Andes.


Permanent URL: