DAVID J. WILSON - I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia during the late 1960s

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DAVID J. WILSON - I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia during the late 1960s

DAVID J. WILSON - I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia during the late 1960s

DAVID J. WILSON - I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia during the late 1960s

My research interests in the indigenous peoples of Latin America, and more specifically in the rise of complex prehispanic societies on the north coast of Peru, began when I worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia during the late 1960s. My Peace Corps group was trained intensively in both the Aymará and Spanish languages at the University of Washington which, coincidentally, was the university where I had just received a B.A. in Po litical Science. In addition, in the training program we were introduced to the cultural anthropology of the Aymará people by several experts who had lived and worked with this group. During the two years in Bolivia, I spent several vacations vis iting Quechua towns and Inca archaeological sites in the area around Cuzco, Peru. After Peace Corps, together with several friends I traveled home overland to the U.S. and had an opportunity to visit a number of other impressive archaeological sites, including Pachac&aacutemac and Chan Chán, in Peru, and Monte Albán and Teotihuacán, in Mexico. In addition, we visited several indigenous groups who still maintained their traditional way of life, including the Colorados of Ecuador, the Kuna of the San Blas Islands, Panama, and the Maya Quiché near Antigua, Guatemala.

Upon my return to the U.S., I had an opportunity to work seven months at the site of Calico Hills, California -- whose subsurface remains are now quite rightly seen as highly unlikely to represent human occupation, in contrast to the claims of its excavators of a pre-Paleo Indian presence here. The titular head of the Calico Hills excavations was L. S. B. Leakey, and, during several of his visits, I heard him s peak with great enthusiasm about his early hominid finds at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and about the work Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas were carrying out with higher primate groups. As a result, I became quite enthused myself about the study of anthropolog y more generally beyond the narrower confines of prehispanic archaeology. Nevertheless, before embarking on a career in anthropology, I spent two years at San Diego State University earning a Masters degree in Spanish, with a focus on the indigenous nove l of Middle and South America.

Following this, in 1973 I was admitted to the Ph.D. program in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, with the goal of working on the rise of complex civilizations in Mesoamerica and the Central Andes. During my time at Michigan, I worked one season with Kent Flannery's Oaxaca Valley project, participating in excavations carried out by one of his students on habitation terraces at Monte Albán, the capital of the ancient Zapotec state; an other two seasons with Jeffrey Parsons on his monumental Valley of Mexico settlement pattern surveys; as well as part of a season with Jeff Parsons on a settlement pattern survey in the Tarma area of the Andes east of Lima, Peru. During my years at Mich igan I was much influenced by the publications and teaching of Professors Kent Flannery, Jeffrey Parsons, and Henry Wright. I also took (or sat in on) courses with Professors Aram Yengoyan, Roy Rappaport, Richard Ford, Roberto Frisancho, John Earls, Conr ad Kottak, Frank Livingstone, and Robert Whallon. All of them influenced me strongly toward an ecological-evolutionary paradigm and the need to make theory formulation and testing in archaeology not only an anthropologically-oriented endeavor but an expl icit part of research strategy as well. With John Earls (Ph.D. from U. Illinois), I spent a semester intensively reading the 16th- and 17th-century Spanish documentary sources on late Pre-Colonial and early Colonial Peru, which gave me some appreciation of the richness of the ethnohistorical data available on the Inca state.

During the late 1970s, while still a graduate student at Ann Arbor, I taught a number of courses at the Flint and Dearborn campuses of the University of Michigan, which prov ided an opportunity to begin developing some of the courses that I now teach at Southern Methodist University, including Prehistoric Cultures and Human Ecology. In addition, since the anthropology faculty at both campuses was relatively small, I was pres sed into teaching a general introductory course in Cultural Anthropology. Beyond the earlier reading of selected ethnographies I had done in courses on ecological anthropology at Ann Arbor, this gave me additional impetus to read a number of ethnographie s ranging reasonably widely around the world.

research programs<>

The Santa Valley Project (1979-1980). With the help of research grants from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Earthwatch, and HEW Fulbright-Hays, in 1979-1980 I undertook a temporally and spatially comprehensive settlement pattern survey of the Santa Valley, north coast of Peru, in completion of the requirements for my Ph.D. Although this was the first such project on the coast of Peru, my work had been preceded on the north coast itself by the famous settleme nt survey of Gordon Willey (Harvard U.) carried out in 1946 in the Virþ Valley, north of Santa , and by a survey conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Donald Proulx (U. Mass.) in the Nepeña Valley, just to the south of Santa. Indeed, we w ere enabled to a great degree in carrying out the Santa research by our knowledge of the ceramic chronologies produced by the Virú Valley project (especially by Wendell Bennett, James Ford, Duncan Strong, Clifford Evans, and Donald Collier) and by Proulx in his work in Nepeña. This allowed us to "bracket" our evaluation of the Santa ceramic sequence by reference to the temporal diagnostics of the then better-known valleys of Virú and Nepeña.

Various archaeologists had worked in Santa prior to my project, most importantly including Christopher Donnan who in the 1960s carried out a survey of Moche Period sites in the valley. Earlier work by Hernán Amat and Gary Vescelius, as well as by Gene Savoy and Douglas Shar on, also had indicated the presence of a number of excellently preserved fortresses dating to the earlier periods of ceramic occupation in the valley (some of these had been photographed from the air by the two daring American pilots, Robert Shippee and George Johnson, in the early 1930s; see "Air Adventures in Peru," National Geographic 63:81-120, 1933). This, plus the presence of the so-called "Great Wall of Santa," made Santa an ideal focus of a comprehensive, problem-oriented survey of occupations throughout the sequence that was aimed at understanding the relative roles of irrigation agriculture, population, and warfare in the origins and development of complex prehispanic society in this valley and, by extension, in nearby valleys as well.

Ultimately, during the course of 14 months of fieldwork and with the assistance of 19 volunteers from the U.S., Peru, and Argentina, it was possible to survey the entire lower Santa Valley, from the Pacific coast to a point 70 kilometers inland, well into the western cordillera of the Andes, and cover an area of over 750 square kilometers. A total of 1246 prehispanic occupations was found, dating to ten periods in a sequence stretching over 3700 years between the Preceramic time period (pre-1800 B.C .) and the end of the Inca occupation of the valley in A.D. 1532. With regard to the role of warfare in the Santa sequence, the following conclusions/hypotheses resulted from the research: Although we found fortresses dating to later periods in the sequ ence (e.g., to the later Middle Horizon, ca. A.D. 700 - 1100), by far the largest number of such sites dates to the four pre-state (pre-Moche) periods. Analysis of the settlement patterns of these periods (in a highly circumscribed context where the amou nt of irrigable land in both ancient and modern times is relatively easily estimated) strongly suggests that this pre-state warfare was never internecine, as theorized by Robert Carneiro in his famous 1970 paper on the origin of the state, but rather that it was an intervalley phenomenon. The strong similarities between Santa ceramics and those of valleys to the north (e.g., Virú) coupled with the equally strong dissimilarities between Santa and valleys to the south suggest that the source of the attacks was either Nepeña or Casma Valleys to the south, if not both. Since Casma already was known to have precocious complexity, it clearly was the prime candidate for this source--ultimately leading, as discussed below, to my current project st udying settlement patterns in both the Sechín and Casma branches of the Casma Valley.

The results of the Santa Valley Project have been published in a number of articles and in a book published in 1988 by Smithsonian Institution Press entitled PREHISPANIC SETTLEMENT PATTERNS IN THE LOWER SANTA VALLEY, PERU: A REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF COMPLEX NORTH COAST SOCIETY. The manuscript of a second book containing the 1246 site descriptions and additional ceramic data has been completed and sent to the University of Michigan for probable publication in the near future; it is entitled SITE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SANTA VALLEY PROJECT, NORTH COAST OF PERU.

Moche-Casma Road-Settlement Project (1986-1987). With the support of funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and Southern Methodist University, in 1986-1987 I carried out a brief but productive survey of all extant r oads and roadside sites in the five intervalley deserts that lie between the valleys of Moche, Virú, Chao, Santa, Nepeöa, and Casma, over an area of the north coast some 160 kilometers long by about 20 kilometers wide (see Fig. 1). As in the case of the Santa project, we used large-scale aerial photographs both to orient ourselves as we carried out the survey and to record all remains of ancient roads and sites of the intervalley deserts as we proceeded from Moche Valley south to Casma. Although still in preparation for publication, the data from this project include the following: (1) we discovered a total of some 500 kilometers of ancient roads and trails, adding to the 250 kilometers that were found during the prior work in the Santa Valley; (2) in addition, some 220 roadside sites were found and recorded, adding to the 200 intervalley desert sites already found during the Santa work between Santa itself and the Chao Valley--in sum, a total of 750 km of inter-regional roads and 420 roadside s ites was recorded over an area of roughly 3200 square kilometers in the five intervalley deserts.

Figure 1. Map of the Peruvian north coast, showing the set tlement pattern surveys mentioned in the text.

In accordance with the early Middle Horizon date of the majority of roads in the Santa-Chao desert discovered during the Santa research, most of the network we studied in 1986-1987 between Moche and Casma also dates to the early part of the Middle Horizon Period--which, among other things, as I will attempt to show in later publications, suggests that this period was characterized by as much multivalley integration as were the better-known Moche and Chimú polities. We also found evidence as well for earlier, Guañape Period use of some of the routes (e.g., the far inland route that runs between the Virú and Moche Valleys), later Chimú Period use of routes extending wid ely if more sparsely throughout the earlier Middle Horizon network, and, finally, even later Inca use of these routes as well, particularly between Nepeña and Casma inland from the modern Panamerican highway.


The Casma Valley Project (1989-1995). As implied above, my current research on prehispanic settlement patterns in the Casma and Sechín bran ches of the Casma Valley grows in large part out of the results of the Santa Valley work: that is, it was of interest to test the hypothesis that the source of pre-state attacks on Santa was indeed the Casma Valley itself. Among other things, such a hyp othesis implied that we should find evidence of warfare in Casma, and, as in the case of Santa, that no argument for internecine war could be made--in other words, that from the start of the ceramic sequence Casma was integrated at the pan-valley (pan-bra nch) level and fully capable in terms of estimated population numbers of sustaining a long-term, balanced stance of conflict with Santa. Here, it is worth noting that in contrast to the Santa River, which has a relatively huge flow of water on a year-rou nd basis (4600 million cubic meters per year, on average), the Casma Valley has far less flow (320 million cubic meters per year). On the other hand, both the Sechín and Casma branches combined had an estimated 20,000 hectares of land in ancient t imes, as contrasted with about 11,000 hectares of irrigable land in Santa. Thus, in light of the precocious development of societal complexity in Casma that was known from excavation work prior to our survey, and given the large population base that this implies, the following scenario may be suggested for the hypothesized attacks of Casma on Santa: Since Casma is a "second-class" stream--in other words, subject to lesser water flow and more year-to-year (unpredictable) fluctuations in its water regime-- a rising population in this valley may well have found that the continual attempt to place Santa under its direct control offered an attractive alternative to maintaining strict (and therefore stressful) population controls at home on the local level. I ndeed, it is hard to imagine that such adaptive considerations were not an underlying (infrastructural) reason ultimately leading to the formation of the multivalley Moche conquest state.

Figure 2. Plan View of Pampa de la Llama - Moxeke site, dating to the Moxeke Period, ca. 1800-1000 BC (Casma Valley Project).

Although not characterized by a superior water regime, Casma is anything but average when it comes to the pre-Moche archaeological remains in its two branches. For example, the two mounds at Pampa de la Llama - Moxeke site are arguably the largest of their time period (ca. 1500 B.C.) anywhere in North and South America. Our map (see Fig. 2) of the site corroborates the assertions made by its excavators, Tom and Shelia Pozorski, about its "urban" layout which extends over a relatively large area of some 130 hectares. Nearby Cerro Sechín site (Fig. 3), which dates to ca. 1300 B.C. and later, displays some of the most spectacular iconography related to warriors and slain captives found anywhere in the world.

Figure 3. Perspective draw ing of a part of the main facade at Cerro Sechín site. Redrawn and adapted from Figure 130, in Tello ( 1956).

Briefly to refer more specifically to the research methods employed in the Casma and preceding projects, all three surveys h ave relied on the intensive prior study of ceramic diagnostics using both the published literature and type collections available in various American and Peruvian museums. Using the large-scale airphotos purchased at the Servicio Aerofotográfico N acional in Lima, a team of three to four persons walks in a line across all terrain where sites could be located, including both the desert margins and the valley floor. The principal features of sites (including habitation sites, ceremonial-civic center s, fortresses, and cemeteries) and other features (e.g., walls and roads) , as well as the ceramic diagnostics found in association with these remains, are marked directly onto the airphotos for later tracing in the field laboratory. Frequent collections of ceramics are made, to serve later as a check on our field evaluations of chronology and ultimately to compare type distributions on a site-to-site and period-to-period basis throughout the survey area. Selected sites of various types, including all o f the larger complexes, are mapped either with transit-stadia/Brunton-tape or by tracings prepared from airphoto enlargements.

Using such methods, we have discovered for the first time in Casma a complete sequence extending from the Preceramic throu gh the Late Horizon Periods. The period names, their estimated dates, the corresponding Central Andean period, and the numbers of occupations found through the end of the 1994 season are as follows (Note: some few more sites will be added for several of the periods after the data from 1995, the final season of fieldwork, are worked up):

Casma Period Estimated Chronology Central Andean Period No. of Occupations Tor tugas pre 1800 BC Preceramic 10 Moxeke 1800 - 1000 BC Initial 64 Pallka 1000 - 350 BC Early Horizon/ Chavín 42 Patazca 350 BC - AD 0 beginning Early Intermediate, or EIP 196 Cachipampa AD 0 - 450 middle EIP/ Gallinazo< /td> 186 Nivín AD 450 - 650 late EIP/ Moche 31 Choloque AD 650 - 900 early Middle Horizon/ Black-White-Red 245 Casma AD 900 - 1350 late Middle Horizon/ Casma incised 387 Manchán AD 1350 - 1532 Late Intermediate/Late Horizon 151 TOTAL OCCUPATIONS 1312

To give some idea of the results of the project to date, it is useful to provide a brief overview of two of the nine periods mentioned a bove. Figure 4 shows the settlement pattern of the Moxeke Period, including the site of Pampa de la Llama -Moxeke and the settlement clusters that characterize this earliest ceramic period system. Based on their excavation work at the main site itself, the Pozorskis have argued that the large size and urban appearance of the main site suggest that state formation occurred on a local-valley basis during this period--i.e., far earlier than anywhere else in the Americas. However, the relatively small numb er of sites (64, as of the end of the 1994 season) and the correspondingly low population (a preliminary estimate is 13,000 persons living on 185.6 hectares of inhabited land, with some 2000 estimated for Pampa de la Llama - Moxeke itself) both suggest th at the Moxeke system at best represents a chiefdom level of sociopolitical integration. Although the apparent presence of a three-level of hierarchy and function would suggest greater sociopolitical complexity than this, it is worth noting that the size of occupation at the second-tier sites in the system is small. In sum, although there is no question that this is a system of some complexity, we do not have overwhelming evidence suggesting state formation in Casma at this very early time in the ceramic sequence.

Figure 4. Settlement pattern map of the Moxeke Period, showing data gathered through the end of the 1994 season (Casma Valley Project).

As shown in Figure 5, a far better candidate for pristine state formation in the Casma Valley is the Patazca Period system. In contrast to the 64 sites of the Moxeke Period, there are now 196 sites distributed essentially throughout the valley in a system that appears far more complex than that of the earlier period. First of all, the sites of this system are nearly continuously distributed in both branches of the valley--suggesting far greater sociopolitical integration than before. Second, the hierarchy of site size and function now includes as many as four different levels--with Pampa Rosario site at the apex of the system, five evenly distributed second-tier centers below it in the political hierarchy (their even, widespread distribution itse lf suggests efficiency of administration and, hence, integration), a larger number of sites at the third level, and, finally, a very large number of sites at the local, rural level of the system. Third, the large number of fortresses scattered around the Patazca system (including Chanquillo, the largest such structure ever built in this area of the north coast; see Figure 6) suggests that conflict was an important processual part of its adaptive structure. It may be noted with regard to the use of the term "processual" here that the building of forts on a large and extensive scale suggests that conflict, or the threat of conflict, was an ongoing phenomenon in a context of a continual balance of power. However, the strongly integrated nature of this sys tem essentially rules out any local warfare, thus suggesting that conflict was occurring between Casma and some other nearby valley. Since no major valleys lie immediately to the south of Casma, the Santa Valley (not to mention Nepeña) becomes a likely partner in this conflict. Fourth, in contrast to any of the preceding systems, the Patazca Period is far more heavily populated with a preliminary estimate exceeding 50,000 persons. In sum, our Patazca Period data support the assertion that state formation had occurred by this time period in the Casma Valley -- far earlier (by some 500 years) than the multivalley Moche state but nevertheless far later (by over 1000 years) than suggested by the excavators of Pampa de la Llama - Moxeke site.

Figure 5. Settlement pattern map of the Patazca Period, showing data gathered through the end of the 1994 season (Casma Valley Project).

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Figure 6. Plan view of Chanquillo fortress site, Patazca Period, ca. 350 BC - AD 0 (Casma Valley Project).

research acknowledgments

santa valley project (1979-80)<>

1.Funding Sources :National Science Foundation, HEW Fulbright-Hays Overseas Fellowship, Center for Field Research/Earthwatch, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

2.Field Assistants :Benigno Araico, Stephen Benjamin, Manuel Chav&eacutez, Kate Cleland, Connie Co chran, Kenneth Fain, Hern&aacuten Gonz&aacutelez, Mar&iacutea Mercedes Herrera, Douglas Lambert, Christopher Libby, V&iacutector Llacas D&iacuteaz, "Vito" Llacas, Ethan Mascoop, Julia Middleton, Fidelia Notman, Mark Notman, Brian Rosencrantz, Allan Scholl enberger, Diana Wilson, Glen Wilson, Joan Zofnass, and Paul Zofnass

Moche-Casma Road-Settlement Project (1986-87)

1.Funding Sources :Wenner-Gren Foundation for Antthropological Research, Southern Methodist Un iversity Dean's Office

2.Field Assistants :Juan Albarrac&iacuten, "Flaco" Roncal Llacas, Glen Wilson

Casma Valley Project (1989-Present)

1.Funding Sources :National Geographic Society, Southern Methodist University/Dedman College

2.Field Assistants

1989: Rommel Angeles, Susan Garrett, Jim Kendrick, Erik Roberts, Jennifer Walters

1990: Mauricio Brittingham, Susan Garrett, Sam Smith

1993: Rommel Angeles, Kathy Kamp, Lynn Recktenwald

1994: Rommel Angeles, Angela Matusik, Tracy Sole, Hampton Peele, Paula Wilson

1995: Joanne Harrison, Bobbi Hess, Angela Matusik, Karen Mosteller, Jason Mynatt

1997: Kristi Darnell, Bob Foxworth, Elena Miranda, Chad Stanley

recent and forthcoming publications<>

Aside from working on publications related to my research on the Peruvian north coast, I am curr ently writing a book entitled INDIGENOUS SOUTH AMERICANS OF THE PAST AND PRESENT: AN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE. It grows out of a course I teach at SMU which over the years has combined a focus both on recent indigenous adaptations (e.g., the Ona, Yahgan, K uikuru, Mundurucú, Yanomamö, Shuar/Jívaro, Kogi, Aymará, and Quechua) and on the prehistory of the continent (e.g., the Paleo-Indians, Omagua, Tapaj÷s, Tairona, Valdivia, and the various cultures of ancient Peru). Although books with continent-wide coverage have been published over the years on one or the other of these topics, no significant attempt at combining the two has been made since Julian Steward and Louis Faron wrote NATIVE PEOPLES OF SOUTH AMERICA in the 1950s.

Yet, given the validity of the assertion that some continuity exists in adaptations from ancient to recent times (the Tairona and the Kogi provide a good example of this) then understanding both sets of data at least at a restricted local level helps in e valuating change and/or continuity over time, not to mention in "fleshing out" the bare bones of archaeology by reference to the far richer ethnographic data sets that sometimes are available for later indigenous groups in the same area. In a nutshell, t hen, the book in progress embraces the notion that ethnographic analogy is a highly useful procedure. More important than mere local analogy, however, is the theoretical notion so convincingly argued by Steward than there is a strong relationship between the level of sociopolitical integration of local cultures over the longer evolutionary term and the environments in which they develop their subsistence systems. Among other things, this implies that after some 13,000 years of human occupation the immed iately pre-European distribution of band, village, chiefdom, and state societies around the continent is far more likely to have been a function of environments and subsistence systems than it was of cultural "genius," or a lack thereof. Again, the under lying assumption of the book in preparation is that it is only by combining a treatment of both the ethnographic and archaeological data within an explicitly laid out theoretical framework that one can effectively demonstrate the validity of such an asser tion (the polemic of the book should be obvious here, in light of its counterargument to the widely-held, but ultimately misguided, notion that "there is no real Theory out there, just a lot of little, competing theories")

For example, although inspi red by Steward's cultural ecological theory and his writings, the book nevertheless will attempt to bring his theoretical perspective up to date by showing how ecological anthropology represents a significant advance beyond the more limited "vulgar materi alist," infrastructurally-deterministic strategy still in vogue among some researchers--e.g., in its focus on the importance of higher-order regulation of infrastructural variables by ideology (or, Ultimate Sacred Postulates), ritual (the concrete behavio ral manifestation of ideology/religion), and leaders (headmen, headwomen, chiefs, rulers). However, given the vastly greater amounts of archaeological and ethnographic data now available compared to the time period when Steward edited the seven volumes o f the Handbook of South American Indians--not to mention the impossibility of including all these data in one volume--the book will employ selected exemplary data sets from groups at all levels of sociopolitical integration around the continent in making its arguments.

undergraduate courses taught<>

Prehistoric Cultures

South American Indians of the Past and Present

Human Ecology

First Year Seminar/Core-Capstone: An Overview of an Anthropological Studies

graduate courses taught<>

Contemporary Theory in Anthropology (since 1960)

Rise of Complex Societies

South American Archaeology

For more info on Peru

Return to the Anthropology Department Home Page

Go to SMU's Home Page

David Wilson

This page was last revised on March 25, 1997.

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By Danny J. Dunbar on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 11:11 am: Edit Post

I served in the Altiplano from 1967-1969 (Notre Dame Group).

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