Where the Land Meets the Sea: Fourteen Millennia of Human History at Huaca Prieta, Peru

In This Review

Where the Land Meets the Sea: Fourteen Millennia of Human History at Huaca Prieta, Peru
Edited by Tom D. Dillehay
University of Texas Press, 2017
832 pp.
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As the Ice Age wound down some 14,000 years ago and the seas and land warmed, early human settlements cropped up along the Peruvian coastline. At Huaca Prieta (Spanish for “dark mound”), multiple generations of kinship communities constructed impressive earthworks for their rituals and burials—leaving behind what the venerable anthropologist Dillehay labels “one of the most complex prepottery coastal sites” ever discovered. Using cutting-edge forensic tools, a large multinational, multidisciplinary team uncovered, in exquisite detail, the lives and times of these Neolithic people. The contributors to this engrossing book reveal that these ancient Andeans feasted mostly on seafood but eventually added cultivated maize and chili peppers to their rather healthy diets. Although lacking ceramics, their artistic talents surfaced in sophisticated cotton textiles, basket weavings, and decorated gourds. Dillehay’s speculations about Huaca Prieta’s social organization are also fascinating: the evidence suggests that the community was more networked than hierarchical and more cooperative and deliberative than competitive or violent, and that its members interacted in relative harmony with one another and with their evolving maritime and terrestrial ecosystems.