Geoarchaeological Investigations along the Tambo-Ilo Coast of Southern Peru

Louis Fortin

As of 2002, Degree of Master of Science (MS) Quaternary and Climate Studies published under the auspices of the Climate Change Institute.


The south coast of Peru has had a long history of cultural occupancy from the Preceramic through Chiribaya periods, and into Spanish Colonial / Post-Colonial periods. Procurement and modification of lithic material was an important activity throughout each of these periods but remains an under-explored dataset for late Prehispanic and Colonial populations in the region. Analysis at the Cola de Zorro archaeological site and within the Tambo-Ilo region examined the relation cultures have with their environment through a geoarchaeological analysis of the local geology and the distribution of lithics. Surveys were completed at Cola de Zorro in the quebrada drainage, on the pampa surface, on a colonial structure, and among domestic debris scatters. The investigations explored the potential of lithic material to offer insight into the nature of coastal resource procurement and the role of local vs. non-local materials. This investigation has also developed a standard geoarchaeological methodology to assess local and more regional raw material procurement and utilization. Geologically, local material was used in the creation of structures and stone-walled terraces. Lithic tools were predominantly made from chert, which was acquired from beyond the Pampa Dispensilla region, and likely from beyond the Tambo-Ilo coastal region. Materials collected during the 2006 Tambo- Ilo survey are surface collections with a bias toward tool assemblages and projectile points. Analysis of coastal projectile points shows a range of typologies, with the most prevalent forms dating from the Terminal Archaic through Late Horizon (3300 BC - A.D. 1532). However, the coastal environment and stratigraphy of Tambo-Ilo must be taken into account, where deposition can be minimal and surface deflation high placing thousands of years in a single stratigraphic layer.