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Lane, Kevin and Jennifer Grant, 2016.

A Question of Altitude: Exploring the limits of highland pastoralism in the

prehispanic Andes. In The Archaeology of Andean Pastoralism, edited by J. M. Capriles and N. Tripcevich, pp.
139-157. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

A Question of Altitude
exploring the limits of highland pastor alism in the prehispanic andes
Kevin Lane and Jennifer Grant

Los lmites marginales de llamas y alpacas reflejan la marginalidad

a la que se ha sometido a las poblaciones que los pastorean.
Jorge Flores Ochoa (1980:65).

way of life under the twin pressures of a collapsing animal

and human population. Modern Andean camelid herders
are still living the effects of this ancient debacle (Bonavia
1996; Flores Ochoa 1980; Gade 1999).
The past though, offers a very different picture.
Sarmiento de Gamboa (1999 [1572]:49, 7475) in the sixteenth century attests to the importance of the llama
especially the white-coated and sacredly significant
napato Inka hagiography and to their concepts of
wealth. While the various early administrative visitas attest to the vast numbers of camelids in the highlands
owned by the inhabitants of, for example, Huaylas,
Titicaca basin, Ayacucho, and Cajamarca (e.g., Espinoza
Soriano 1978; Murra 1968; Rostworowski and Remy 1985;
Stern 1993) among others. Brotherston (1989) also mentions that the first skill for which Inka mitimaes were selected was herding.
Extrapolating from early ethnohistoric records backward toward the Late Intermediate Period (10001450
CE) established the presence of two important groups in
the central to north-central highlands: the Huari or
Llactayoc farmers and the Llacuaz or Yaros herders
(Duviols 1973, 1986, 2003; Rostworowski 1988b). Often

he study of modern Andean pastoralism is a study

in marginality. Against the image of the poor yet
sustainable cordilleran peasant farmer (Doughty
and Doughty 1968; Mayer 2002; Wolf 1955), one has the oftreiterated image of the marginal puna herder (Flannery et
al. 1989; Flores Ochoa 1968; Kuznar 1995). Yet this herder
marginality is the result, on the one hand, of postconquest
European agro-centrism (Lane 2006b) and, on the other,
the consequences of over-exploitation, as well as
the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century decimation of
camelid herds due to mange plaguesknown as qarachi
in Quechua and sarna in Spanishbrought literally on the
backs of then-recently introduced European animals such
as sheep and goats (Wheeler 1995:286). The effects of these
mange plagues have been alluded to by Flannery and colleagues (1989) and described by Bonavia (2008); they have
been estimated by Flores Ochoa (1980) to have resulted in
up to a 90 percent reduction in the number of herd animals during the first century of contact. Consequently,
this reduction brought with it animal substitutionovicaprids in the place of camelidsand an implacable socioeconomic crisis among high-altitude camelid herders,
who experienced the almost complete disappearance of a



Lane and Grant

these Huari-Llacuaz groups formed dual complementary

asymmetric herder-farmer ayllus or communities. The
herder Llacuazes, venerating the lightning deity Llibiac,
and documented from Junn up to the Piuran highlands
(Astuhuamn 2008; Parsons et al. 1997; Perales Mungua
2004; Vera Roca 2009), held economic and socialsome
documents even claim militarymastery over the agricultural Huari (Gose 1993; Rostworowski 1988a). While
the true composition, or even identity, of these two
groups may never be satisfactorily known (see Lane
2010:185188 for a detailed discussion of this point), what
is readily apparent is the social and economic preeminence of herders for the Late Intermediate Period; a preeminence that is reflected further south by Titicaca basin
herders, the Aymara-speaking, Lupaqa groups (Graffam
1992; Murra 2002; Stanish 2001). Further back in time, for
the Middle Horizon Wari, scholars speculate on a mixed
maize-camelid economy underpinning this polity
(Finucane 2009; Finucane et al. 2006; Meddens 1989),
while Tiwanaku has long been associated with extensive
camelid exploitation (Kolata 1993, 1996; Lynch 1983). Even
further back the evidence is equally tantalizing
(Browman 1989; Mengoni Goalons 2008; Miller and
Burger 1995; Wheeler 1984). Indeed one could speculate
that it would be impossible to understand prehispanic
highland culture without understanding the pivotal role
pastoralism played in its development.
Reassessing the importance of herding in the past necessarily calls into question many assumptions held about
the limits or constraints of prehispanic pastoralism.
Elsewhere we already described how technologically
savvy herder-farmer communities employed hydraulic
technology at the community level to maximize agropastoralist productivity in the Cordillera Negra of the northcentral Andean highlands, especially that of herding
(Lane 2006b, 2009).
Following from this, here we develop a point made
(Lane 2006b:504505) concerning the limits of prehispanic high-altitude pastoralism during the Late
Intermediate Period (10001450 CE). The evidence increasingly suggests that specialized high-altitude pastoralism was not only practiced in the puna but also,
conservatively, in the upper suni (Pulgar Vidal 1946; Tosi
1960), an ecozone situated between 3,6003,900 m asl (see
Table 9.1 for a description of the ecological zones considered in this chapter). The implications for the Central
Andes are huge, greatly increasing the known available
pastureland and thereby the number of camelids in the
landscape. It should be stated that this pushing of the

pastoralist frontier was undertaken at the community

level, emphasizing the herder-centric makeup of the late
prehispanic social landscape.
Furthermore, the ecological evidence does not suggest
that climate was a determining factor in this alternative
use of the suni. The period between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries saw both a warmer spellMedieval
Climatic Anomaly (MCA)and a colder spellthe start
of the Little Ice Age (LIA). Rather it would seem that
human agency, enshrined in the then-dominant discourse of a herder political ecology, was the defining feature in pursuing this downward extension of the
pastoralist frontier.
This chapter then briefly presents the ecological evidence for climate change during the Late Intermediate
Period (LIP) and the Late Horizon (LH), before caveating
this evidence with a consideration of political ecology
and its interpretative implications for Andeanand pastoraliststudies. A case study regarding this time period
from the north-central Andean highlands is then addressed before a discussion of the implications and future
directions opened up by this chapter.

ecol ogy a nd cl im at e dur ing

t he l at e in t er medi at e per iod
a nd t he l at e hor izon

Paleoenvironmental data in the Andes has been advancing by leaps and bounds so that a more subtle and detailed appreciation of past climate is now within our
grasp. The main data collection from ice cores in Peru
(Huascarn and Quellcaya) and Bolivia (Sajama) has
been undertaken by Lonnie Thompson and his team over
the past few decades (Thompson et al. 1985; Thompson et
al. 1995; Thompson et al. 1998) while another recent ice
core was taken from the Nevado Illimani in Bolivia
(Ramirez et al. 2003). These initial investigations have
been augmented by other studies, such as a study measuring the ammonium content in the ice cores (Kellerhals
et al. 2010), including oxygen isotopic ratios (18O); ITAZ
(Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone); a study of migration,
ammonium, and nitrate concentration (Thompson et al.
2013); and studies of other proxies such as lakes (Baker et
al. 2001; Chepstow-Lusty et al. 2003) and coral reef cores,
among others. These initial and subsequent papers provide a series of proxies with which to elucidate past climate change and how it impacted prehispanic cultural
development (e.g., Shimada et al. 1991).

A Question of Altitude


T a ble 9.1. The differ ent cl assifications for ecologica l zones in the A ncash highl a nds .
(I NRENA 2000)

(TOSI 1960)


Desert shrub Montane

Tropical Lowland

Spinous steppe
Montane Lower


2,100 to 3,100

250 to 500

Agriculture: potato,
beans, peas, maize

Desert shrub Tropical

Mantane [md-MT]

Desert weeds
Montane [md-M]

Suni / Jalka

3,100 to 3,600

250 to 500

Agriculture: potato,
maize, tarwi beans

Steppe Tropical Montane


Montane steppe

Suni / Jalka

3,600 to 4,100

250 to 750

Agriculture: potato
(bitter); Herding

Paramo humid, Tropical

Subalpine [ph-SaT]

Humid paramo
Subalpine [ph-SA]

Puna baja

4,100 to 4,600

500 to 1,000

Agriculture: some potato,

fodder; Herding

Humid tundra Tropical

A lpine [th-AT]

Tundra muy
hmeda Alpino

Puna brava

4,600 to 5,100

500 to 1,000


Even given the caution with which geological and

archaeological chronologies can be matched and associated (Calaway 2005), it seems evident that both the
Medieval Warm Periodalso known as the Medieval
Climate Anomalyand the Little Ice Age had an impact
on the Andes. This resulted in the warmer MCA period
between ~1050 and ~1300 CE followed by a highly unstable period before the onset of the LIA ~1400 CE according to Kellerhals and colleagues (2010) and Neukom
and colleagues (2011); while Thompson and colleagues
(2013) agree on the dates for the MCA, they place the LIA
somewhat later at ~1500 CEalthough this is based solely
on the Quellcaya data, the results of which are skewed by
the Amazon basin signalwith the period in-between
showing an unstable climatic pattern.
Even given these minor incongruities in climatic
chronology we would seem to have had a warmer, drier
period during the earlier LIP followed by a period of unsettled climatic conditions before the advent of colder,
wetter conditions toward the end of the LIP (Baker et al.
2001). The Laguna Pumacochas, located in the eastern
Central Andes, proxy on sedimentary 18Ocal level further supports this conclusion with the added detail that
the period between 9001100 CE, during the MCA, was
particularly arid, while the period 14001820 CE, during
the LIA, was particularly wet (Bird et al. 2011); this is
reiterated in Mchtle and Eitels (2012:68) exhaustive and
informative table on the south-central Andes.
A broad reading of the paleoenvironmental evidence
would therefore suggest that although the agricultural
frontier would have benefitted from the warmer




conditions in the eleventh to early fourteenth centuries,

the increased aridity would probably have necessitated
a greater investment in water procurement technology.
Likewise the wetter, colder conditions beginning in the
early fifteenth century would seem to have favored pastoralism, as farming became increasingly difficult at
high altitudes. Indeed, it would seem then that the Inka
Empire expanded during a period particularly favorable
for pastoralism, although local conditions could vary
(Chepstow-Lusty et al. 2009). But this simple reading of
the evidence fails to take into consideration the predominance of pastoralism during most of the LIP, a predominance which we believe has less to do with climate
than with human agency, framed here under the tenets
of political ecology.

a pol i t ic a l ecol ogy a pproach

to t he a ndes

The Andean environment has been widely interpreted as

representing the primacy of nature over human culture.
It has long been argued that if humans altered the Andean
environment, the effects were negligible (Cardich 1985;
Paulsen 1976). Denevan (1992:46), among others, has
punctured this myth of the pristine Americas, arguing
for a more proactive role for humans in the shaping of
their environment. Erickson (2000:317) sees humans as
heavily involved in changing their environment and argues that a major part of the Andean landscape is in fact
a human construct. Humans are therefore to be perceived


Lane and Grant

as active agents of wide and comprehensive change involving local ecology and landscape. As Ellenberg
(1979:401) suggests, the human is not only a partner of
the ecosystem he lives in, [but] has become more and
more a super-organic factor.. . . He changed, and continues to change, the water balance and nutrient turnover of
nearly all ecosystems. This leads toward an espousal of
what Karl Zimmerer (1994) describes as New
Ecologya view of ecology in which the stability or
homeostasis of the environment is disputed, opting
rather for disequilibria, instability, and even chaotic
fluctuations in biophysical environments, both natural
and human-impacted (Zimmerer 1994:108, emphasis
added). This position opposes trends that emphasize an
ecological determinism in which humans are the passive
victims of climate and of the environment in general (for
an application of this hypothesis see Binford et al. 1997)
and moves toward the more anthropogenic interpretations of political ecology (Greenberg and Park 1994;
Robbins 2004).
Given the difficulties in aligning geological or ecological chronologies with archaeological ones (Calaway
2005), it is hardly surprising that human decisions are
increasingly proposed as the prime mover in areas such
as landscape use, resource access, and marginality
(Paulson et al. 2003). These are some of the key issues that
are slowly being brought to bear on archaeological case
studies (e.g., Beresford-Jones et al. 2009). In the case of
the altitudinal limits of Andean camelid pastoralism a
similar human-influenced, paradigm-busting explanation is sought here to counter the modern agro-centric
dominant narrative.
Therefore here we do not contest the relevance of environmental issues in the past, but we do contend their primacy. As Zimmerer (1994:112) states, Explanations of
human behavior based primarily, or entirely, on ecological
concepts of adjustment and adaptation ... overlooked the
roles of ethnicity and power in shaping human behavior.
This concept of human decision-making regarding uses of
the environment leads toward an anthropocentric perspective (Erickson 2000:316) on ecology in which the landscape is modified from a standpoint of a prevailing and
structured social logic that covers economic, political,
social, and religious pressures. Zimmerers (1991) political
ecology stresses this relationship between human politicoeconomic decisions and ecology, while a critical realist approach (Bhasker et al., 2010; Vayda and Walters 1999;
Walker 2005) anchors our use of political ecology around
a concrete archaeological case study.

Within this context of political ecology, we understand

as political those aspects of an economy that mediate
land use through strategies of domination, accommodation, and resistance (Zimmerer 1991:444). Nor is this
social relationship necessarily a top-down one, given that
individual or household agents could have negotiated
these external demands using the broader political structures with recourse to existing local social practices. What
we mean by this is that in some cases it was the smallholders and communities who determined land-use strategies
(sensu Netting 1993). This is particularly pertinent for explaining the economic landscape of the Late Intermediate
Period (10001450 CE) highlands where the lack of a strong
centralizing power effectively delegated economic policy
to the checkerboard petty cacicazgos and communities
that comprised the periods sociopolitical units.
In this scenario, the limitations of a community or
polity, be they technological, social, or due to population size, would initially shape and structure their interaction with an areas ecolog y and landscape,
circumscribing a particular political ecology for that
group. In an archaeological context, time would also
function as a constant mediator renegotiating a new and
evolving polit ical ecology as local social, political, and
ecological conditions fluctuated and changed. Indeed
time constitutes one of the generators of plurality within
political ecology discourse; time is understood as the
many different human positions, perceptions, interests,
and rationalities in relation to the environment
(Paulson et al. 2003:205206).
In ecological terms, then, political ecology stresses
that, although crops do have micro-environmental limits, these are flexible and, to a large extent, it is humans
who impose the physical limits on their production; as
Zimmerer (1994:114) states, Niche specialization (of
crops) is not somehow immutable and given; its properties must be demonstrated rather than assumed.
Likewise, Enrique Mayer (2002:245) suggests that these
niches, or production zones as he terms them, constitute
a productive resource in which crops are grown in distinctive ways and suggests that they are therefore to a
large extent artificially constructed micro-environments.
Let us also recognize that if these constraints of production, encompassing the limits of where plants can thrive,
can be pushed, as Brush (1976) suggests, then this creates
the difference between effective crop limits and the absolute crop limits. This is a crucial factor to bear in mind
when we deal with the theme of natural ranges for domesticated camelids in the Andes.

A Question of Altitude
Political ecology therefore stresses the whole spectrum of human actions at different levels and scales and
by different actors, underlining the manner in which
human action can proscribe the specific physical limits of
a resources production without an overt emphasis on the
resources supposed biological or ecological limits.
For instance, the general postcontact altitudinal increase in agricultural cultivation along the slopes of the
Andes that Cardich (1985:305) observed200 m in the
last 150 yearscould be reinterpreted not as a condition
primarily of a general amelioration of climate but rather
to changing circumstances in a community-based, local
political ecology ensconced in a larger regional and
national political ecology that emphasized agricultural
products over animal ones. Archaeologically, the growth
of maize around Lake Titicaca through the use of raised
fields (camellones) displays a similar forcing of a crop
(Erickson 1986; Graffam 1992). Likewise, a pattern of increased wetland colonization and production has been
identified by Zimmerer (1991) among the modern communities of Colquepata in Southern Peru. As an exponent of political ecology, Zimmerer has reasoned that the
demands for agricultural products from external markets
has led to the increased exploitation of these previously
abandoned lands. It is time to apply this self-same reasoning embedded in human agency and political ecology
to prehispanic camelid pastoralism and the limits of its
altitudinal range.

pa s t o r a l i s m a n d t h e c o r d i l l e r a n e g r a

Numerous ethnographic studies describe the diversity

of agropastoralist adaptations in the Central Andes
(e.g., Allen 2002 [1988]; Bolin 1998; Flannery et al. 1989;
Flores Ochoa 1968). These ethnographic studies have
largely been conducted in southern Peru, where the
widest expanses of contiguous grasslands are concentrated. Few significant studies (see Doughty and
Doughty 1968; Stein 1961; Vasquez and Holmberg 1966)
have been undertaken in northern Peru, and only recently has the question of agropastoral land-use systems
in the Cordillera Negra, Ancash, started to be examined
(Lane 2006a). Few communities currently practice
large-scale herding in the area, but this, as mentioned
above, is more a reflection of postcolonial changes in
land-use strategies than of the amount of land available
for pastoralism. Within the study area (see Figure 9.1)
our investigation into the Chorrillos micro-valley of the


Chaclancayo River in the Nepea headwaters zone demonstrated that the areas grazing capacity per km 2 was
equal to that of the Ayacucho area and the Titicaca
basin (Lane 2006b:505).
If present economic productivity is low, the highlands
nevertheless have a long tradition of sustaining and encouraging large populations (Murra 1978 [1955]). As
Brush (1976:160) reiterated, it is evident that the major
prehispanic settlements were significantly higher than
they are today. Most were located in the upper jalka
[puna] zone, just below the jalka fuerte [puna brava]
zone. The reason for siting these settlements in the inaccessible upper limits of the cordillera cannot have been
just a factor of defense but was also a matter of basic economics. Settlements were located alongside or near to the
upper suni and puna ecozones, which would thereby represent their production zones.
To reiterate and expand, a production zone as defined by Mayer (2002:241) is a culturally constructed
plot of managed land with the added implication that it
is possible to push or move a given biomass, be it a plant
or an animal, into a particular ecological location according to human needs. As we have argued above, the
rules used in the management of production zones do
not necessarily correspond to the assumed ecological
limits of the crop or animals in question. These rules are
rather political decisions that human agents make
within a given ecology and they often push the limits of
a crop or animal even when this renders the resource
economically risky, ecologically fragile, or borderline
viable, as is the case of maize in the circum-Titicaca area
(Erickson 2000:324).
Our central argument in this chapter though does not
entail pushing camelids to areas where they are economically unviable given that they (especially the llama) can
subsist in almost all Andean environments (Franklin
1982). Rather, we are arguing for a push downward of agriculture to accommodate greater camelid numbers in
the top bracket of the suni area (3,6003,900 m asl), thus
greatly expanding camelid numbers for the period in
question. The evidence presented here for this discussion
is mainly derived from a detailed landscape analysis of
the sites, technology, and features in the study area (see
Figure 9.1) of the Cordillera Negra of the Peruvian
Province of Ancash.
To this end we concentrate on three zones within this
area: the Rico and Huinchos micro-valley and confluenceZone A; the Chorrillos micro-valleyZone B; and
the lower-lying Pamparoms open valleyZone C;


Lane and Grant

Figure 9.1. Map of study area, showing total area surveyed. Coutesy of Kevin Lane.

additionally, we refer to the un-zoned lakes area situated

above Zone C (see Figure 9.2). Of these zones the first two
straddle the suni and puna ecozones, while Zone C covers
the kichwa and suni ecozones (see Table 9.2). What is readily apparent is that this was truly an agropastoralist landscape that unified both pastoralism and agriculture into a
highly successful, integrated economic system; it was a system though that by the Late Intermediate Period (LIP) and
Late Horizon (LH) seems to have prioritized pastoralism
over farming. That we can date the sites and this landscape
to the LIP and LH is due to a detailed study of the ceramic
recovered through excavations and surveys (Lane
2006a:Chapter 6 and Appendix C; Lane et al. 2004; Lane
and Lujn Dvila 2009) and 10 radiocarbon dates from the
sites of Intiarn (Co 2: 1 date), Yurakpecho (Cho 3A: 1 date),
and Kipia (Puk 9: 8 dates), which chart use of this area
from the late Middle Horizon through the LIP to the early
colonial period (see Table 9.3).

A general observation can be made across all three

zones, that being that even those settlements located in
the kichwa are close to this liminal altitude area (3,600
3,900 m asl), dividing exclusive farming from herding, so
that the sites associated to Atunhirka (Lla 1) hug the
3,5003,700 m asl bracket even if their cultivation fields
lie below this level on the adjacent slopes. The only possibly exclusive farming enclave consists of the sites along
the San Juanito ridge (Zone C, SJ 15), which lie between
2,8003,100 m asl comprising three settlement sectors (SJ
2, 3 and 5) and two important feeder reservoirs (SJ 1 and
4) for terraced slope cultivation. Strategically, this cluster
of sites is also located along the coastal access to the suni
and puna sites located further upslope.
Even compensating for survey biasin which valleybottom sites are underrepresentedthe difference in the
number of sites above and below 3,900 m asl is at first
light insignificant: 26 versus 31, but obviously tilting

A Question of Altitude


Sites surveyed during 19992005

Sites surveyed during 20062008
Figure 9.2. Map of surveyed sites divided into three zones: A, B, and C. Black dots = sites surveyed during 19992005; light dots =
sites surveyed during 20062008 (illustration by A. Amaya).

toward favoring a farming-landscape conclusion. Yet if

we consider only settlements, estancias,1 and farmsteads
this is then reduced to 16 versus 11, favoring a herding
paradigm. If we divide this further in these types of settlements then we see a pattern of 9 estancias2 recorded
against 7 farmsteads,3 and 7 settlements above4 3,900 m
asl against 8 below.5 In this case, while the estancias outnumber the farmsteads, it would seem that on settlements the number is more or less equal. Even ascribing
the two sites in the liminal zone (Cho 11 and Puk 5) between 3,600 to 3,900 m asl to the highlands the difference
is not significant. Yet this last point does not take into
consideration size, other than the strategically important
site of Atunhirka (Lla 1), straddling the pass between the
Jimbe Valley to the north and Chaclancayo Valley to the
south; the agricultural-zone sites are considerably
smallerbetween 2.58 hathan their counterparts upvalley, which reach up to 38 ha in the case of Intiauran

(Co 2). Even so, this dense settlement pattern across these
three ecozoneskichwa, suni, punashows the almost
seamless progression between farming and herding
among the communities in this area of the Andes, further emphasizing the need to consider these activities as
integral aspects of a conjoined, interrelated economic
system combining both farming and herding.
Nevertheless, a much more important marker of
which type of economy predominates is technology, as
found embedded in the landscape (Lemonnier 1993). It is
to this that we turn to next. Zones A and B (see Figure
9.2) covers primarily the suni and puna areas of the
Chaclancayo River, and the focus of these two areas is
Cerro Rico (5,100 m asl), the apex of both the Rico (Zone
A) and Chorrillos (Zone B) Valleys. Of the two areas, the
Chorrillos was the more densely populated, with settlements stretching from approximately 3,650 m asl [Cho
11] through to the main settlement of Yurakpecho at

Lane and Grant


T a ble 9.2. S ites surv ey ed under the Pa r a C o P roject (19992008).






Zone A
Br 1



Br 2



Br 3



Br 4



Br 5



Br 6



Br 7




Silt dam

Co 1


Co 2








Silt reservoir



Co 4



Co 5




Water reservoirs



Co 3

Cj 1


Cj 2
Cj 3





2x Silt reservoirs

Cj 5



Cj 6



Cj 4

Represa Decisin




See Kinzl (1942/1943)

Ra 1

Ricococha Baja


Water dam

Ra 2

Ricocochoa Alta


Water dam

Ra 3



Rac 10



Zone B
Cho 1



Water dam

Cho 2

Olern Cocharuri


Silt dam

Cho 3














Water dam

Cho 6


Cho 7

Putacayoc/ Kaukayoc


Silt reservoirs/Estancia

Cho 8



Necropolis/Water reservoirs
and terraces

Cho 9




Cho 10




Cho 11




Zone C
Lla 1










Lla 2




Ceramic scatter


Ceramic scatter

Lla 3

A Question of Altitude





Zone C
Lla 4














Water reservoir/Carved stones

Lla 5




Pa 1










Pa 3




Pa 4



Water dam

Puk 1







Pa 2

Puk 2




Puk 3




Puk 4




Cruzpunta kunka









Puk 6




Puk 7




Puk 5

Puk 8









Carved stones

Corpus Rumi (?)




Pukullo 2

Puk 10




Puk 11

Corpas Rumi






Puk 9

Puk 12




Puk 13



Chullpas 2

Puk 14






Puk 15
Puk 16


Chullpas 3

San Juanito


Water reservoir

San Juanito


Settlement/Carved stones

SJ 1
SJ 2

SJ 3

San Juanito



San Juanito



San Juanito











Water reservoir

SJ 4
SJ 5










Lane and Grant


T a ble 9.3. R a dioca r bon dates from sites in the surv ey a r ea ca libr ated using the O x C a l 4.2 progr a m a nd the
I nt C a l 09 ca libr ation curv e .










CO 2



1637 CE

1653 CE

Late Intermediate

Destruction level above floor,

Central Structure, Sector A





1395 CE

1406 CE

Late Intermediate

Offering Pit, Struture 1





1445 CE

1453 CE

Late Intermediate

B:2-Primary fill (34) of

offering pit [22]





1451 CE

1467 CE

Late Intermediate

A:3-Floor level (28) of

Room 1





1154 CE

1157 CE

Middle Horizon/Late
Intermediate Period

A:3-Floor level and fill (28) of

offering pit(?) [48] in Room 1





1620 CE

1633 CE

Late Intermediate

A:3-Ashy midden spread (34)

over terrace floor (3)





1273 CE

1278 CE

Late Intermediate

B:2-Primary fill (72) of

offering pit [71]





1632 CE

1635 CE

Late Intermediate

B:4-Fill (13) for subsequent






1445 CE

1450 CE

Late Intermediate

B:6 [RF4]-Primary fill (20) of

offering pit [19]





1632 CE

1636 CE

Late Intermediate

B:4-Fill (13) for subsequent


4,570 m asl (Cho 3). The Chorrillos-Pukio Canal links

the settlements of the Chorrillos Valley with the settlements in Pamparoms area (Zone C), bringing water
from this mainly herding valley directly to the kichwa
The orientation of the Chorrillos Valley and its sites
channels the attention of the visitor upward toward the
series of large puna lakes between 4,200 and 4,660 m asl.6
All the various settlement sites, farmsteads, and estancias
are located around the water resources in the area, with the
site at Yurakpecho (Cho 3) commanding a strategic vista of
both the upper lakes and all approaches to the valley.
The upper portion of the other valley, the Rico, is also
centered around twin artificial lakes, in this case those of
Ricococha Baja (Ra 1) and Alta (Ra 2), which complement
the adjacent large settlement site of Ricohirca, first recorded by Hans Kinzl (1943) in the 1930s. The dearth of
other similarly sized or ancillary settlement sites in the
upper portion of the Rico Valley, other than the odd estancia, suggests that this area was perhaps also tied to the
centers in the Chorrillos Valley. Nevertheless, there was
a concentration of population congregated farther down
around the silt dam at Collpacocha (Co 1), at the LIP occupation of Intiaurn with neighboring hamlets in the

Breque Valley, and around the modern village of

Cajabamba Alta, 1.5 km downstream.
Indeed Collpacocha (Co 1)located at 3,825 m asl,
within the 3,6003,900 m asl upper-suni ecozone, and
straddling the Huinchos Riverlies at the center of a
technologically complex pastoralist landscape that never
theless incorporates farming as an important complementary economic activity (see Figure 9.3). Collpacocha
(Co 1) stands at near to 100 m in length orientated at a
north-south angle. At its widest it is 11m thick and is constructed of three major stone steps, in-filled with medium
and small stones compacted with silty clay. The total
height of the structure is 5.4 m. Collpacocha (Co 1) is a silt
dam (Lane 2009), in which water and soils are dammed
to create artificial bofedales or moors to increase the
availability of pasture. Archaeological auguring of
Collpacocha (Co 1) supports its interpretation as an artificial bofedal (Lane 2006a:Appendix D). Water egress
below the silt dam was probably used for farming activities, as the remains of abandoned field systems would
seem to collaborate.
The bofedal, or silt basin, at Collpacocha (Co 1), at over
28 ha (see Figure 9.4), would have concentrated large
numbers of animals in this area in close association with

A Question of Altitude


Figure 9.3. Map of Co 1Co 2 agropastoralist landscape. Note corral areas (Co 2, Sectors: 6 & 7; Co 4 and Br 4) and terraced area
(Co 2, Sector: 2). Courtesy Kevin Lane and Luis Coll.

the large and important LIP and subsequent Inka settlement site of Intiaurn (Co 2) (Lane 2011). Numerous estancias7 were also associated with the Collpacocha (Co 1),
further reinforcing the importance of this technology for
the local agropastoralist economy.
Farther upstream toward the twin dammed lakes of
Ricococha Baja (Ra 1A) and Ricococha Alta (Ra 2) are
remains of silt reservoirs similar to those found along the
Chorrillos Valley (see Figure 9.5ad). In a similar fashion
to silt dams, but on a much smaller scale, silt reservoirs
create a small area of biomass-rich pasture (Lane 2009).
Furthermore the dam at Ricococha Baja (Ra 1A) shows
signs of having had water siphoned off below it to create
an area of bofedal through the use of canals (see Figure
9.6ab), a technique similar to that employed by the herders of Chichillapi in Puno (Palacios Ros 1977, 1981, 1996).

The technology employed is simple: two canals divert

water from the main sluice toward the eastern and western
edge of the valley, from where water is allowed to flow back
toward the center of the basin by means of smaller outlets,
thus irrigating the intervening area. It was possible to see
remains of the eastern canal, 1m wide at its widest and
30 cm deep, stretching about 150 m south along the valley.
There is evidence to suggest that the canal was stone lined.
The western canal is almost completely destroyed: only a
few stretches of stone-lined walling can be seen. A line of
ichu grasses along the course of the canal, probably a relic
of some persistent water flow along the buried course of
the canal, is also suggestive of its presence.
Both the canals peter out beyond 150 m, suggesting
that either it never extended beyond this boundary or
that the remaining course has been completely destroyed.


Lane and Grant

Figure 9.4. Aerial photograph of Co 1 showing silt basin. Based on the Peruvian IGN (1960).

By these means an area of at least half a hectare could

have been irrigated for use as pasture. In itself this is not
much, but in combination with the extensive silt reservoirs in existence throughout the lower Rico Valley these
canals have made another important area of silt entrapment and pasture production. Altogether, this suggests
that together with Collpacocha (Co 1) we have a technologically adapted landscape between the Ricococha dams
(Ra 1A and Ra 2) at 4,560 m and at least 3,800 m, this last
being below the normally accepted lower altitude ceiling
for herding in the area.
Parallel to the Rico River is a small stream that leads
from the natural bofedal at Pampa de Sanigana (sites Cj
16) to the HuichosChaclancayo River bypassing the
Collpacocha (Co 1). Again, at a smaller scale, the pattern
is repeated. A number of estancias (Cj 2 and Cj 6) and a
minor settlement (Cj 5) are linked to silt reservoirs (Cj 4).
Interestingly, these silt reservoirs and the Cj 2 estancia
are within the 3,6003,900 m asl suni ecozone, amply
demonstrating that herder hydraulic technology is being
utilized below the strictly puna ecozone.
Zone B has been described in greater detail elsewhere

(Lane 2006); suffice to say that a system of water dams

(Cho 1 and Cho 6), a silt dam (Cho 2), and a large concentration of silt reservoirs (Cho 7) link settlements8
across a technologically pastoralist landscape located
between 3,7504,660 m asl (see Figure 9.5). Below this lie
the agricultural terraces of Llanapacha (Cho 8). In total
over 200,000 m 2 of artificial pasture would have been
added to the preexisting pasture by technological
As described above, Zone C would have comprised the
main agricultural area of the valley, although even here
there are signs that belie a preoccupation with herding.
Crucially, the main cosmological site identified for the
whole study area, the site of Kipia (Puk 9), is dedicated to
SantiagoSt. James (Lane 2011). In Andean Christian
syncretism the cult to Santiago masks an earlier cult to
the lightning deity, the deity responsible for herders and
their herds (Hernndez Lefranc 2007). Linked by canal to
the water-rich Chorrillos Valley, the area comprising
Pukio (Puk 116) was partially reliant on the herders of
the adjacent valley for a reliable and constant water supply. Finally, the whole of Zone C is oriented upward

A Question of Altitude




Figure 9.5. Photographs of pastoralist landscape features, including silt reservoirs: (a) silt reservoir of Patoparinan (Cho 2C), (b) silt
reservoirs on the Rico Valley (note change in pasture tone denoting bofedal vegetation), (c) detail of silt-reservoir dam wall located
in the Rico Valley (with G. Contreras), (d) silt reservoir at Putacayoc (Cho 6C) with outtake sluice at center of structure. Courtesy
Kevin Lane.

toward the lake zone at the summit of this cordillera,

comprising a series of water and silt dams feeding into
Zone C below.9 This upper area is the pastoralist hinterland to the kichwa-suni farming area below.
Finally there is another point to consider: the positioning and extension of known agricultural terracing
systems. In Zone C, we have two possibly verifiable terraced areas in existence, those of Titatuscar (Puk 6:
3,6003,700 m asl) and possibly Capliacasha (Puk 12:
3,4003,450 m asl). Although the area above and beyond
these terraces becomes increasingly steep, it would not
have been an impediment to further terracing, especially

when fed by water from the dams farther upslope. This

then begs the question: Why does this technology stop
here? Nor is this a phenomenon particular to Zone C;
the terraces of Llanapacha (Cho 8) in Zone B finish at
3,750 m asl, while the possibly Inka bench terraces of
Intiaurn (Co 2) peter out at 3,850 m asl. All of these terracing systems within this liminal zone have helped us
define the real boundary between farming and herding.
Reverting to the main argument of this chapter, we
would argue that this altitudinal limit to agricultural
terraces obeys a human imperativeto benefit the herders of these agropastoralist communities.

Lane and Grant


East Canal


West Canal

Figure 9.6. Photographs of Ricococha Baja (Ra 1A) basin, showing: (a) route of East and West canal and (b) detail of eastern canal.
Courtesy Kevin Lane.


The description of sites above presents considerable evidence of a farmer-herder landscape in which water, and
also soil, was managed at the community and ayllu level
across whole watersheds or valleys (Lane 2009). It is imperative to emphasize this, to wit, that it is a farmerherder landscape, albeit one in which the herders were
the dominant political power. Hence, given that the location of the majority of these dams and reservoirs was in
the upper altitudinal bracket3,800 m asl and aboveof
the cordillera, it would not be remiss to state that control
must also have been exerted primarily from this area. The
number of large, defensible settlements in this upper
zone further supports this suggestion. By implication
then, the dominant political-ecology narrative would
seem to be pastoralist in nature.
Nevertheless, in a bid to avoid the fallacies of old by
just inverting the old agro-centrist argument into a
herder-centric one, we should not obviate the rich agricultural component in this valley. Indeed, we are in the
presence of a truly agropastoralist landscape, agropastoralist insofar as both economies are strongly interrelated and integrated across the communities that
inhabited the whole of the kichwa, suni, and puna
ecozones in this area.

Even so, given the elaborate nature and maintenance

exigencies of these hydraulic systems, it is obvious that
by the Late Intermediate Period and Late Horizon we
are looking at technologically complex herders and
farmers. The complexity of the hydraulic system probably implies a further specialization in each economic
sphere, so that by this period we are experiencing a
growing tendency toward economic exclusivity, whereby
a technologically rich landscape is producing increasingly specialized farmers and herders as twinned poles
of a self-same community (Grant and Lane 2013), perhaps even the Huari and Llacuazes of the ethnohistoric
What is also apparent is that the pastoralists are not
bivouacked exclusively in the puna as is the case now
adays; rather their use of the landscape and its resources
was much more flexible with the pastoralist frontier effectively in, at least, the upper-suni ecozone of the area.
An extension of 100300 m downslope might seem like
very little, but for the Chorrillos Valley (Zone B) this
would have represented an increase in pasture by half
from 2,430.08 ha to 3,684.05 haof that available from an
exclusive use of just the puna (Lane 2006b:503504). A
similar pattern and productive expansion occurs in Zone
A, as it does in the interaction zone between the lakes
area (un-zoned sites in Figure 9.2) and the predominantly

A Question of Altitude
kichwa Zone C. What we are seeing here then is a progressive pushing of the limits of pastoralism downward
to include the more marginally productive agricultural
lands in the suni zone, lands which when rendered to
herding represented a manifold increase in pasture and
animal-carrying capacity.
The other main point to highlight is that ecological
limits are not rigid. If, as we know, maize is sometimes
grown well above its optimal ecological level, then it is
perfectly plausible that other plants and animals were
similarly pushed or shifted from their assumed traditional boundaries. In describing agropastoral communities in the north-central Andes during the late
prehispanic period, we argue that the animals, artificial
pasturage, and probably fodder cultivation produced a
productive suite that was pushed down from the puna
into the cultivated suni zone. This pushing did not
necessarily obey an ecological imperative, rather it was
the result of decisions taken by the dominant section of
a dyadic agropastoralist societyin this case the
With this in mind it might be necessary to reassess
the role and extent of pastoralism across the Central
Andes. For instance, if we take the limits of agricultural
terracing as a possible cue for determining agricultural
limits and the start of herding in a given area, we can
see that even a cursory survey of existing literature
across such divergent areas as the Colca Valley (Treacy
1994), the middle Mantaro Valley (Bonavia 1968), the
upper Mantaro Valley (DAltroy 1992), Huamachuco
(McGreevy and Shaughnessy 1983), and Chachapoyas
(Schjellerup 1986) all coincide with terraces petering out
in the 3,6003,900 m asl bracket, well within the suni
ecozone. The only exception to the rule is the circumTiticaca region (Erickson 2000), where the presence of
the lake ameliorates the atmospheric temperature, permitting agriculture at a higher elevation.
This begs the question asked throughout this chapter:
What then is happening in this liminal zone? Here we
suggest that human agency allied to a specialized pastoralism within a herder-farmer economy is using this area
to maximize herding production from at least the LIP
through to the LH. More work is obviously necessary to
assess, reinforce, or discard this hypothesis across the
Central Andes. Nevertheless, preliminary work in the
upper Ica Valley (French et al. 2012) is again reinforcing
this pattern with terracing finishing at, or near to, the
3,700 m asl mark before giving over to the sloped and
rolling uplands of the Ica highlands. The implications of


this expansion of the herder frontier across the Central

Andes would have serious repercussions in how we
viewsocially, economically, and politicallythese supposedly marginal herders of yesteryear.

ack now ledgmen ts

The results of this chapter were made possible through

funding from the British Academy, the Leverhulme
Foundation, the Humboldt Foundation, and the
University of Manchester. We would like to thank the
communities of the Cordillera Negra for their unstinting
generosity and welcome. We also thank everyone who
has ever participated in our projects past and present;
this chapter would be impossible without your help.
Finally, thanks to Jos Capriles and Nicholas Tripcevich
for their generous invitation to participate in this volume
and even more for their enduring patience. Needless to
say all mistakes and omissions remain our own.

not es

1. Designating a small habitation site with associated corrals.

2. Br 4, 5, 6, 7; Co 4, 5; Cj 2, 6; Pa 3.
3. Br 3; Puk 2, 12; SJ 2, 3; Pa 1.
4. Co 2; Cj 5; Cho 3, 7, 10; Rac 10 and Ricohirca (Kinzl
5. Cho 11; Lla 1, 4; Puk 3, 5, 9, 10; SJ 5.
6. These are, starting from the bottom: Oleron Cocharuri
(Cho 2), Yanacocha (Cho 1), and the twin lakes of Orconcocha and Warmicocha (Cho 6).
7. Br 4, 5, 6, 7; Co 4, 5.
8. Cho 3, 4, 911.
9. Pa 5, 6; Rac 27; Uc 2water dams; Rac 1; Uc 3silt dam;
Uc 1estancia.

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