Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

David Browman


A fundamental goal of anthropological research is to understand the reasons for and consequences of the development of specialized agricultural systems. The domestication of South American camelids: llamas and alpacas) was associated with the development of specialized pastoralist societies that are still poorly understood. In the central altiplano of Bolivia, during the Formative Period: 1800 BC − AD 400) a cultural complex known as Wankarani developed. Although Wankarani is often cited as an example of early herding society, to date, there has not been an archaeologically-oriented study, focused on understanding the characteristics of its basic economic organization. The goal of this dissertation is to improve current understanding of the nature and development of early camelid pastoralism in the Andean highlands by testing a set of hypotheses related to the economic organization of the Wankarani cultural complex and its change through time. I directed a three-year field project in Iroco: located in Oruro, Bolivia) that involved high-intensity survey of 38.35 km2, horizontal excavations at five sites, and detailed analysis of the recovered faunal remains. Based on quantitative analyses of the collected data and ethnoarchaeologically derived expectations, I demonstrate that early camelid pastoralism was characterized by high residential and logistical mobility, low population densities, and a generalized subsistence base. In contrast to prevailing views, I show that Wankarani pastoralists complemented their reliance on camelid herds with fishing, hunting wild fauna, and cultivating chenopods and tubers. This system remained locally sustainable and largely unchanged for many centuries, but the expansion of the Tiwanaku state: AD 400−1100) produced a regional reorganization that included population aggregation, cultivation intensification, and increased caravan exchange. I conclude that camelid pastoralism developed as a long-term ecological adaptation and as an efficient economic strategy capable of managing diverse processes of environmental and socio-political change.


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