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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)...
Abstract

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.

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Quaternary Research
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