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Dating the Dead: New Radiocarbon Dates from the Lower Ica Valley, South Coast Peru

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2016

Lauren Cadwallader*
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
Susana Arce Torres
Museo Regional de Ica (INC-Ica), Avda. Ayabaca s/n Cuadra 8, Urbanización San Isidro, Ica, Perú
Tamsin C O'Connell
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ; and McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
Alexander G Pullen
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
David G Beresford-Jones
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER, UK
2. Corresponding author. Email:


This article presents radiocarbon dates from human bone samples (n = 13) from seven pre-Columbian cemeteries in the Samaca and Ullujaya Basins of the lower Ica Valley, south coast of Peru, spanning from the end of the Early Horizon to the Inca Late Horizon. These contexts have been severely looted. Yet, in all cases, their putative dating by material culture remains is confirmed by these 14C dates. This shows that such disturbed contexts, sadly typical of the Peruvian coast, can nonetheless still yield valuable bioarchaeological and burial practice data. These dates elaborate upon an emerging picture of the absolute dating of the cultural phases of the wider south coast region, in particular casting new light on the poorly understood Middle Horizon to Late Intermediate period transition. A paucity of archaeological data for this 3-century period has been taken as evidence of some sort of environmentally or socially induced lacuna. Instead, the 14C dates presented here suggest that the basins of the lower Ica Valley were continuously occupied over this period.

Copyright © 2015 The Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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