Environmental change and economic development in coastal Peru between 5,800 and 3,600 years ago

Daniel H. Sandweiss, Ruth Shady Solis, Michael E. Moseley, David K. Keefer, Charles R. Ortloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Between ≈5,800 and 3,600 cal B.P. the biggest architectural monuments and largest settlements in the Western Hemisphere flourished in the Supe Valley and adjacent desert drainages of the arid Peruvian coast. Intensive net fishing, irrigated orchards, and fields of cotton with scant comestibles successfully sustained centuries of increasingly complex societies that did not use ceramics or loom- based weaving. This unique socioeconomic adaptation was abruptly abandoned and gradually replaced by societies more reliant on food crops, pottery, and weaving. Here, we review evidence and arguments for a severe cycle of natural disasters- earthquakes, El Niño flooding, beach ridge formation, and sand dune incursion-at ≈3,800 B.P. and hypothesize that ensuing physical changes to marine and terrestrial environments contributed to the demise of early Supe settlements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1359-1363
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • El niño
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Mid-holocene
  • Preceramic collapse


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