Skip to main content

The Thorny Oyster and the Voice of God: Spondylus and Strombus in Andean Prehistory

  • Allison C. Paulsen

An exchange network based on long-distance export of Spondylus and Strombus, two mollusks native to coastal Ecuador, united the sierra and coast of both Ecuador and Peru during a long period of Andean prehistory. The gradual expansion of the export area is sketched, using evidence from three successive periods: (A) 2800 to 1100 B.C., (B) 1100 to 100 B.C., and (C) 100 B.C. to A.D. 1532. Each of these periods corresponds not only to an enlargement of the exchange sphere, but also to a striking change in the sociocultural status and role of the two shellfish in highland Ecuador and in Peru. This series of qualitative changes is related to evolutionary sociopolitical developments in the central Andes. Chávin is seen as a pristine state, linked to the later Huari and Inca empires through their common use of Spondylus and Strombus shells as symbols of the oracles that were important integrative mechanisms in the evolution toward large-scale societies.

Hide All
Braun, Robert 1971 Cerro Narrío reanalyzed: the Formative as seen from the southern Ecuadorian highlands. Paper read at the Primer Simposio de Correlaciones Antropologicas Andino-Mesoamericano, July, 1971, Salinas, Ecuador. To be published in the proceedings of the Symposium.
Bushnell, G. H. S. 1951 The archaeology of the Santa Elena Peninsula in south-west Ecuador. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Collier, Donald, and John V. Murra, 1943 Survey and excavations in southern Ecuador. Anthropological Series 35, Field Museum of Natural History. Chicago.
Estrada, Emilio, Meggers, Betty J., and Evans, Clifford Jr., 1964 The Jambelí culture of south coastal Ecuador. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 115(3492):483558. Washington, D.C.
Fried, Morton H. 1967 The evolution of political society. New York.
Gibson, Ann Judith 1961 Cresmology: a comparative study of oracles. Papers of the Kroeber Anthropological Association 24 (Spring): 1937. University of California, Berkeley.
Izumi, Seiichi, and Terada, Kazuo 1966 Andes 3: excavations at Pechiche and Garbanzal, Tumbes Valley, Peru. Kadokawa Publishing, Tokyo.
Keen, A. Myra 1958 Sea shells of tropical west America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
Kosok, Paul 1965 Life, land and water in ancient Peru. Long Island University Press, New York.
Lanning, Edward P. 1963 A ceramic sequence for the Piura and Chira coast, north Peru. University of California Publications in Archaeology and Ethnology 46(2): 135284. Berkeley.
Lanning, Edward P. 1967 Peru before the Incas. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
Lanning, Edward P. 1968 Report to the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, Nucléo de Guayas. Mimeographed.
Larco Hoyle, Raphael 1941 Los Cupisniques. Lima. Casa Editora “La Cronica y Variedades,” Lima, Peru.
Lathrap, Donald W. 1970 The upper Amazon. Thames and Hudson, London.
Lathrap, Donald W. 1971 The tropical forest and the cultural context of Chavín. In Dumbarton Oaks Conference on Chavín, edited by Benson, Elizabeth P., pp. 73100. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Washington.
Lathrap, Donald W. 1973 Gifts of the Cayman: some thoughts on the subsistence basis of Chavín. In Variation in Anthropology, edited by Lathrap, and Douglas, . Illinois Archaeological Survey. Urbana. pp. 91106.
Lees, Susan H. 1967 Regional integration of pig husbandry in the New Guinea highlands. Paper read to the Michigan Academy of Sciences.
Malinowski, Bronislav 1961 Argonauts of the western Pacific. Paperback ed. E. P. Dutton & Co., New York.
Meggers, Betty J. 1966 Ecuador. Thames and Hudson, London.
Meggers, Betty J., Evans, Clifford Jr., and Estrada, Emilio 1965 Early Formative period of south coastal Ecuador: the Valdivia and Machalilla phases. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 1. Washington.
Marcos, Jorge G. 1970 Puntas de proyectil bifaciales en la cultura Guangala. Cuadernos de Historia y Arquelogia 37 (XX). Publicación de la Casa de Cultura Ecuatoriana, Nucléo de Guayas. Guayaquil.
Menzel, Dorothy 1968 New Data on the Huari empire in Middle Horizon epoch 2A. Ñawpa Pacha 2: 1105. Berkeley.
Murra, John V. 1971 El tráfico de mullu en la costa del Pacífico. Paper read at the Primer Simposio de Correlaciones Antropológicas Andino-Mesoamericano, July 1971, Salinas, Ecuador. To be published in the proceedings of the Symposium.
Norton, Presley 1971 Notes from a preliminary report on Loma Alta and the implications of inland Valdivia “A.” Paper read at the Primer Simposio de Correlaciones Antropológicas Andino-Mesoamericano, July 1971, Salinas, Ecuador. To be published in the proceedings of the Symposium.
Olsson, Axel A. 1961 Mollusks of the tropical eastern Pacific: Panamic-Pacific pelecypoda. Paleontological Research Institution. Ithaca, New York.
Ottenberg, Simon 1958 Ibo oracles and intergroup relations. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 14:295315. Albuquerque.
Patterson, Thomas C. 1966 Pattern and Process in the Early Intermediate Period pottery of the central coast of Peru. University of California Publications in Anthropology 3. Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Patterson, Thomas C. 1971 Chavín: an interpretation of its spread and influence. In Dumbarton Oaks Conference on Chavin, edited by Benson, Elizabeth P., pp. 2948. Dumbarton Research Library. Washington.
Paulsen, Allison C. 1968 A Middle Horizon tomb, Pinilla, lea Valley, Peru . Ñawpa Pacha 6:17. Berkeley.
Paulsen, Allison C. 1971 The Guangala ceramic sequence for the Santa Elena Peninsula and its implications for prehistoric contacts between Ecuador and Central America. Paper read at the Primer Simposio de Correlaciones Antropológicas Andino-Mesoamericano, July, 1971, Salinas, Ecuador. To be published in the proceedings of the Symposium.
Paulsen, Allison C. n.d. A chronology of Guangala and Libertad ceramics of the Santa Elena Peninsula in south coastal Ecuador. Doctoral dissertation, Columbia University.
Paulsen, Allison C., and McDougle, Eugene J. 1974 The Machalilla and Engoroy occupations of the Santa Elena Peninsula in south coastal Ecuador. Paper read at the 39th Annual Meeting, Society for American Archaeology, Washington. D.C.
Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, Maria 1970 Mercaderes del valle de Chincha en la época prehispánico: un documento y unos comentarios. Revista Española de Antropologia 5:135177. Madrid.
Rowe, John H. 1946 Inca culture at the time of the Spanish conquest. In Handbook of South American Indians 2: the Andean civilizations, edited by Steward, Julian, pp. 183330. BAE Bulletin No. 143. Washington.
Rowe, John H. 1967 Form and meaning in Chavín art. In Peruvian Archaeology: Selected Readings, edited by Rowe, John H. and Menzel, Dorothy, pp. 72104. Peek Publications, Palo Alto, California.
Willey, Gordon R. 1943 Excavations in the Chancay valley. In Archaeological Studies in Peru: 1941-1942. Columbia Studies in Archaeology and Ethnology 1. New York.
Wilson, Godfrey, and Wilson, Monica 1968 The analysis of social change. Paperback ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Wolf, Teodoro 1892 Geografia ye geologia del Ecuador. Leipzig.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed