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Coastal but not littoral: marine resources in Nasca diet

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Carmichael, Patrick H 
Kennedy, Brenda V 
Cadwallader, Lauren  ORCID logo


We examine the contribution of marine resources to the Nasca dietary economy (Early Intermediate Period, c. 100 BC – AD 600, Peruvian south coast) through ceramic iconography, settlement patterns, maritime subsistence technology, fish and shell remains, and stable isotope analysis. Each data set has limitations, but combined a consistent pattern emerges. Though the rich marine biomass of the Peru Current offers potential for huge food surpluses, we conclude the Nasca use of their littoral zone was minor. This result contrasts with earlier and later subsistence patterns in the same area, and with contemporary dietary systems elsewhere along the Andean coast. This challenge to conventional wisdom on coastal economies highlights the need for new research to understand the full range of Andean adaptations, especially those which appear counter-intuitive. This study also questions the notion that percentage frequencies of motifs in the iconography reflect daily realities.



4301 Archaeology, 41 Environmental Sciences, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, Nutrition, 14 Life Below Water

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Ñawpa Pacha

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Informa UK Limited
The authors express their gratitude to the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for providing grants in support of this research.