Skip to main content Accessibility help

Climate Variation and the Rise and Fall of an Andean Civilization

  • Michael W. Binford (a1), Alan L. Kolata (a2), Mark Brenner (a3), John W. Janusek (a2), Matthew T. Seddon (a2), Mark Abbott (a4) and Jason H. Curtis (a5)...


Paleolimnological and archaeological records that span 3500 years from Lake Titicaca and the surrounding Bolivian–Peruvian altiplano demonstrate that the emergence of agriculture (ca. 1500 B.C.) and the collapse of the Tiwanaku civilization (ca. A.D. 1100) coincided with periods of abrupt, profound climate change. The timing and magnitude of climate changes are inferred from stratigraphic evidence of lake-level variation recorded in14C-dated lake-sediment cores. Paleo-lake levels provide estimates of drainage basin water balance. Archaeological evidence establishes spatial and temporal patterns of agricultural field use and abandonment. Prior to 1500 B.C., aridity in the altiplano precluded intensive agriculture. During a wetter period from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1100, the Tiwanaku civilization and its immediate predecessors developed specialized agricultural methods that stimulated population growth and sustained large human settlements. A prolonged drier period (ca. A.D. 1100–1400) caused declining agricultural production, field abandonment, and cultural collapse.



Hide All
Abbott, M.B., Binford, M.W., Brenner, M., Curtis, J.H., Kelts, K.R., 1997. A 3,50014 . Quaternary Research 47.
Albarracin-Jordan, J., 1992. Prehispanic and Early Colonial Settlement Patterns in the Lower Tiwanaku Valley. Bolivia, Southern Methodist University.
Albarracin-Jordan, J., Mathews, J.E., 1990. Asentamientos prehispanicos del valle de Tiwanaku. Producciones Cima, La Paz.
Binford, M.W., Brenner, M., Leyden, B.W., 1996. Paleolimnology and Tiwanaku ecosystems. Tiwanaku and Its Hinterland: Archaeological and Paleoecological Investigations of an Andean Civilization Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, DC.
Binford, M.W., Kolata, A., 1996. The natural and cultural setting. Kolata, A., Tiwanaku and its Hinterland: Archaeological and Paleoecological Investigations of an Andean Civilization Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, DC.
Blodgett, T. A., Lenters, J. D., Isacks, B. L., Constraints on the origin of Paleolake expansions in the central Andes. Earth Interactions.
Bradbury, J.P., Leyden, B., Salgado-Labouriau, M., Lewis, W.M. Jr., Schubert, C., Binford, M.W., Frey, D.G., Whitehead, D.R., Weibezahn, F.H., 1981. Late Quaternary environmental history of Lake Valencia, Venezuela. Science 214, 12991305.
Brenner, M., Curtis, J.H., Higuera-Gundy, A., Hodell, D.A., Jones, G.A., Binford, M.W., Dorsey, K.T., Gierlowski-Kordesch, E., Kelts, K., 1994. International Geological Correlation Program IGCP) Project 324: Global Geological Record of Lake Basins. Cambridge Univ. Press, 403405.
Carmouze, J.-P., Arze, C., Quintanilla, J., 1978. Circulación de materia (agua-sales disueltas) através del sistema fluvio-lacustre del Altiplano: La regulación hidrica é hidroquı́mica de los lagos Titicaca y Poopó. Cahiers ORSTOM, Série Géologie 10, 4968.
Carney, H.J., Binford, M.W., Kolata, A.L., Marin, R.R., Goldman, C.R., 1993. Nutrient and sediment retention in Andean raised-field agriculture. Nature 364, 131133.
Clapperton, C., 1993. Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology of South America. Elsevier, New York.
Comisión Mixta Peru-Bolivia 1977. Carta HIDRONAV-3500, 1:100,000, Instituto Geografico Militar, Lima, Peru.
Dean, W.E. Jr., 1974. Determination of carbonate and organic matter in calcareous sediments and sedimentary rocks by loss on ignition: Comparison with other methods. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 44, 242248.
Deevey, E.S., Stuiver, M., 1964. Distribution of natural isotopes of carbon in Linsley Pond and other New England lakes. Limnology and Oceanography 9, 111.
Deevey, E.S., Brenner, M., Binford, M.W., 1983. Paleolimnology of the Petén lake district, Guatemala: III. Late Pleistocene and Gamblian environments of the Maya area. Hydrobiologia 103, 211216.
Denevan, W.L., 1970. Aboriginal drained field cultivation in the Americas. Science 169, 647654.
Denevan, W., Turner, B.L. II, 1974. Forms, functions and associations of raised fields in the Old World tropics. Journal of Tropical Geography 39, 2433.
Dunne, T.L., Leopold, L.B., 1978. Water in Environmental Planning. Freeman, New York.
Engleman, E.E., Jackson, L.L., Norton, D.R., 1985. Determination of carbonate carbon in geological materials by coulometric titration. Journal of Great Lakes Research 2, 307323.
Erickson, C., 1992. Prehistoric landscape management in the Andean highlands: Raised field agriculture and its environmental impact. Population and Environment 13, 285300.
Erickson, C., 1993. The social organization of prehispanic raised field agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin. Scarborough, V., Isaac, B., Economic Aspects of Water Management in the Prehispanic New World Research in Economic Anthropology7, JAI Press, Greenwich, 367424.
Fisher, M.M., Brenner, M., Reddy, K.R., 1992. A simple, inexpensive piston corer for collecting undisturbed sediment/water interface profiles. Journal of Paleolimnology 7, 157162.
Fontes, J.-C., Gonfiantini, R., Earth and Planetary Science Letters 3, 1967. 258.
Gambrell, R. P., Patrick Jr., W. H., 1978. Plant Life in Anaerobic Environments. Hook, D. D., Crawford, R. M. M., 375, 423, Ann Arbor Sci. Pub Ann Arbor, MI.
Gasse, F.R., Tehet, R., Durand, A., Gibert, E., Fontes, J.-C., 1990. The arid-humid transition in the Sahara and Sahel during the last deglaciation. Nature 346, 141146.
Graffam, G.C., 1992. Beyond state collapse: Rural history, raised fields, and pastoralism in the south Andes. American Anthropologist 94, 882904.
Hodell, D.A., Curtis, J.H., Brenner, M., 1995. Possible role of climate in the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization. Nature 375, 391394.
Hastenrath, S., Kutzbach, J., 1985. Late Pleistocene climate and water budget of the South American Altiplano. Quaternary Research 24, 249256.
Janusek, J. W., 1994. State and Local Power in a Prehispanic Andean Polity: Changing Patterns of Urban Residence in Tiwanaku and Lukurmata. Bolivia, University of Chicago.
Kolata, A.L., 1986. The agricultural foundations of the Tiwanaku state: A view from the heartland. American Antiquity 51, 748762.
Kolata, A.L., 1993. The Tiwanaku: Portrait of an Andean Civilization. Blackwell, Cambridge.
Kolata, A.L., Ortloff, C., 1989. Thermal analysis of Tiwanaku raised field systems in the Lake Titicaca basin of Bolivia. Journal of Archaeological Science 16, 233263.
Kramer, P.J., Boyer, J.S., 1995. Water Relations of Plants and Soils. Academic Press, San Diego.
Mourguiart, Ph., Carbonel, P., Peypouquet, J.-P., Wirrmann, D., Vargas, C., 1986. Late Quaternary paleohydrology of Lake Huinaymarca (Bolivia). Scenarios based on Ostracods fauna. Hydrobiologia 143, 191197.
Ortloff, C.R., Tiwanaku and its Hinterland: Archaeological and Paleoecological Investigations of an Andean Civilization.. Engineering aspects of Tiwanaku groundwater-controlled agriculture. Kolata, A., 1996. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, DC.
Ortloff, C., Kolata, A., 1993. Climate and collapse: Agroecological perspectives on the decline of the Tiwanaku state. Journal of Archaeological Science 20, 195221.
Overpeck, J.T., 1996. Warm climate surprises. Science 271, 18201821.
Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 6, 1975. 111.
Reddy, K.R., Feijtel, T.C., Patrick, W.H. Jr., Chen, Y., Avnimelech, Y., 1986. The Role of Organic Matter in Modern Agriculture. Nijhoff, Dordrecht, 117156.
Roche, M.A., Bourges, J., Cortes, J., Mattos, R., 1992. Climatology and hydrology of the Lake Titicaca basin. DeJoux, C., ltis, A., Monographiae Biologicae, Vol. 68, Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 6388.
Sanchez de Lozada, D., 1996. Heat and Moisture Dynamics in Raised Fields of the Lake Titicaca Region, Bolivia. Cornell University, Ithaca.
Seddon, M. T., 1994. Excavations in the Raised Fields of the Rio Catari Sub-basin. Bolivia, University of Chicago.
Seltzer, G.O., 1990. Recent glacial history and paleoclimate of the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes. Quaternary Science Reviews 9, 137152.
Seltzer, G.O., 1992. Late Quaternary glaciation of the Cordillera Real, Bolivia. Journal of Quaternary Science 7, 8798.
Stanish, C., 1994. The hydraulic hypothesis revisited: Lake Titicaca basin raised fields in theoretical perspective. Latin American Antiquity 5, 312332.
Stine, S., 1994. Extreme and persistent drought in California and Patagonia during mediaeval time. Nature 369, 546549.
Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., 1993. Extended14 14 . Radiocarbon 35, 215230.
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Bolzan, J.F., Koci, B.R., 1985. A 1500-year record of tropical precipitation in ice cores from the Quelccaya ice cap, Peru. Science 229, 971973.
Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Berger, W.H., Labeyrie, L.D., 1987. Abrupt Climate Change: Evidence and Implications. NATO Advanced Science Institutes Series C: Mathematical and Physical Sciences 216, Reidel, Dordrecht, 99110.
Thompson, L.G., Bradley, R.S., Jones, P.D., 1992. Climate since A.D. 1500. Routledge, London.
Thornthwaite, C.W., Mather, J.R., 1955. The Water Balance. Laboratory of Climatology, Centerton.
Weiss, H., Courty, M.-A., Wetterstrom, W., Guichard, F., Senior, L., Meadow, R., Curnow, A., 1993. The genesis and collapse of third millennium North Mesopotamian civilization. Science 261, 9951004.
Wirrmann, D., Monographiae Biologicae, Vol. 68, Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge. Morphology and bathymetry. DeJoux, C., Iltis, A., 1992. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1623.
Wirrmann, D., Mourguiart, P., 1995. Late Quaternary spatio-temporal limnological variations in the altiplano of Bolivia and Peru. Quaternary Research 43, 344354.
Wirrmann, D., Oliveira Almeida, L.F., 1987. Low Holocene level (7700 to 3650 years B.P.) of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia, South America). Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 59, 315323.
Wirrmann, D., Ybert, J.-P., Mourguiart, P., 1992. A 20,000 years paleohydrological record from Lake Titicaca, Monographiae Biologicae. Vol. 68,, Lake Titicaca: A Synthesis of Limnological Knowledge DeJoux, C., Iltis, A., 40, 48, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht.
Wright, H.E. Jr., Mann, D.H., Glaser, P.H., 1984. Piston corers for peat and lake sediments. Ecology 65, 657659.


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