Human-environment interactions on the desert South Coast, Peru : a review of paleoclimate proxies and archaeological evidence
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The dynamic environment of the Peruvian Andes has always been conceptualized as central to human lifeways. A growing body of paleoclimate research provides new evidence to improve our understanding of the environmental processes that interact throughout this region. This has important archaeological implications to both generate new data on specific human-environment interactions, and more critically assess how the environment has influenced cultural transitions, and how humans have adapted and modified their surroundings. This report discusses existing paleoenvironmental proxy data for the desert Peruvian South Coast cultural region, and focuses on archaeological faunal assemblages, sediment cores, and geomorphological and sedimentological evidence. Each of these proxies differs in terms of scale, coherency, and temporal resolution. Combined, they provide evidence of long-term hyper-aridity in this region, influenced by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) fluctuations since the Late Pleistocene. ENSO has been the predominant climate driver for the Eastern Pacific, affecting coastal Peru to varying degrees on a multi-decadal scale since it onset at modern frequencies during the Middle Holocene. At local scales, geomorphological evidence and archaeological settlement pattern data suggest changes in precipitation, temperature, and climate variability, with specific relevance for human subsistence and resource access within the coastal desert. This report also summarizes the development of sociopolitical complexity within the South Coast region, which played out within this sequence of environmental change and was closely linked to agricultural developments and marine resource access because past climates created fertile ecosystems within the desert and influenced ranges of marine food species.