Prehistoric Parotani Settlement Project

Directors of the Project

Dr. Timothy L. McAndrews, Professor and Director of Archaeological Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Dr. Claudia Rivera, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia
Research is conducted in conjunction with the Museo Arqueológico, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Cochabamba

The Prehistoric Parotani Settlement Project focuses on the prehispanic periods of occupation in the western valleys surrounding the town of Parotani in the Department of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Our current research involves both intensive site-level research and extensive regional survey to address questions pertaining to the initial village-based adaptation as well as the nature of Tiwanaku's influence on the western valleys of Cochabamba.  The project is collaboratively directed by Dr. Tim McAndrews of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Dr. Claudia Rivera of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés-La Paz.  This research began during a pilot reconnaissance survey by Dr. McAndrews in 2003 and continues to this day.  It has served as the basis for archaeological field schools for the training of students of archaeology from Bolivia and the United States, and the research has resulted in a number of professional presentations, reports, and publications, many of which are listed below.  A detailed description of the project, its primary goals, and some results of the ongoing research are presented here.

Map of Bolivia indicating the location of Pirque Alto

In the summer of 2003, Dr. McAndrews initiated a research program in the Department of Cochabamba, Bolivia building on a decade of his earlier research in the high altitude Andean Altiplano (14,000 ft above sea level) west of Cochabamba's temperate valleys (8000 ft asl).

At the time, Dr. McAndrews research program in Cochabamba had two primary goals:

·   Exploring the nature of interregional interaction between early village-based Formative Period populations in Cochabamba and the Altiplano

 ·   Illuminating the nature of influence on local Cochabamba populations by the complex civilization of Tiwanaku, centered in the Titicaca Basin in the Altiplano

During the summer of 2005, Drs. McAndrews and Rivera conducted an extensive surface reconnaissance, survey, and collection (with the assistance of students from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Universidad Mayor de San Andrés-La Paz) of the archaeological site of Pirque Alto.  

Pirque Alto Site photo

Pirque Alto is located on a bluff overlooking the Río Tapacarí, and was occupied from the Formative Period through Inca times.  Pirque Alto is important to advancing the research goals stated above as it is located strategically at the junction of natural transportation corridors leading directly to the Altiplano and Titicaca Basin; it contains a rich assemblage of Formative Period artifacts, some of which serve as material correlates to interregional interaction with early village populations in the Altiplano; and it has an extensive assemblage of material culture indicative of Tiwanaku influence (McAndrews et al. 2006; McAndrews and Rivera 2005).

Parotani quadrangle illustrating transportation routes near Pirque Alto

The 2007 field season built on the early results from Pirque Alto through extensive excavations at Pirque Alto and the initiation of a full-scale, comprehensive regional survey designed to identify regional trends in settlement patterns and demography, the diachronic human-land relationship, and the nature of interaction with Altiplano populations through time.  This regional aspect of the project will allow further evaluation of Tiwanaku's presence in the region, a topic of great interest to Andean scholars interested in Tiwanaku diaspora as well as archaeologists seeking to understand the spread of complex society, in general.

Significance of Research

The significance of the proposed research relates directly to the research goals listed above.  First, the ongoing research is addressing the nature of the earliest village-based adaptation in the Andean highlands.  As Flannery observed: “The village - one of the most widespread settlement types in the world today - seems to have been unknown during the first two million years of the human career (1972:23).”  Clearly, the shift to a village-based adaptation from a hunter/gatherer lifeway is of great interest to archaeologists and anthropologists as it represents a major development in the course of human cultural evolution.  Since Flannery's statement, however, surprisingly little archaeological research in South America has focused on the nature of the earliest villages, particularly in areas where highly complex societies and intensive urbanization did not stem from the initial sedentary lifeways (e.g., outside of the Titicaca Basin where Tiwanaku emerged). 

Villages first emerged in the Cochabamba area during the Formative Period (ca. 1150 B.C. - 200 A.D.).  Most Formative Period research in Cochabamba has focused on the low lying southern and eastern regions (Brockington et al. 1995, Pereira Herrera et al. 2000).  The research we have initiated at Pirque Alto is the first of its kind in the Parotani region, and it has already contributed significantly to research Dr. McAndrews conducted on Formative Period village-based society in the Andean Altiplano (McAndrews 2005).  Our current research is designed to further explore the lives of early villagers in the rural south-central Andean highlands, providing a clearer view of life from the periphery, away from centers of urbanization and emergent socio-political complexity.      

In addition to characterizing the early village-based adaptation in Cochabamba, our research is specifically examining the nature of interregional interaction among Formative Period populations in the Altiplano and the western valleys of Cochabamba.  Despite similar manifestations of material culture on Formative sites across regional boundaries, very little systematic research has ever been conducted to evaluate the degree and nature of interaction between early village societies widely distributed throughout the south-central Andean highlands.  Since the Parotani region of Cochabamba is strategically located on natural routes to the Altiplano and Titicaca Basin and since the site of Pirque Alto contains material evidence of trade with Altiplano populations, it is an ideal location for exploring the interregional interaction of early village populations during the Formative Period (McAndrews et al. 2006; McAndrews and Rivera 2005).  Moreover, Pirque Alto is likely only one of many other sites (to be identified in the regional survey) that were occupied throughout much of prehistory.  Thus, the Parotani region is crucial to our understanding of the relationship between high altitude Altiplano and intermontane valley populations in Cochabamba through time.

Another significant contribution of our ongoing research is its ability to address the nature of influence by the complex civilization of Tiwanaku, centered in the Titicaca Basin (in the Altiplano) on peripheral Cochabamba populations.  Given its dense Tiwanaku occupation, our research at Pirque Alto promises to advance our understanding of the degree to which Tiwanaku's rise, expansion, and collapse impacted peripheral populations in one of Cochabamba's western valleys, thus building on the previous settlement pattern research of Higueras-Hare (1996).  In addition to site specific analysis at Pirque Alto, our regional survey will identify additional sites, like Pirque Alto, that hold clues to the nature of Tiwanaku's influence in Cochabamba and provide a regional perspective on the complex social processes our research seeks to elucidate. This regional approach is allowing us to add significantly to the local perspective attained from intensive investigations at Pirque Alto, it will provide a diachronic regional perspective on interregional interaction, and it will help clarify the complex sociocultural trajectory that characterizes the Parotani region.

Finally, a number of recent volumes have specifically addressed the emergence of village-based society in the south-central Andes (McAndrews 2005, Stanish et al. 2005), the rise of Tiwanaku and its impact on local Titicaca Basin populations (Stanish et al. 2005; Janusek 2004; Stanish 2003), and expansion of the Tiwanaku state into peripheral regions (Goldstein 2005).  However, none of these influential works have addressed these issues in the context of the valleys of Cochabamba, one of the most densely occupied regions in the central Andes throughout prehistory.  Furthermore, our research is based on a different theoretical perspective than the volumes listed above.  It is our contention that in order to fully appreciate the nature of Tiwanaku's influence in the valleys of Cochabamba (and elsewhere for that matter), it is critical to understand the preceding sociopolitical context of the region and the character of interaction with Altiplano populations during the Formative Period.  It is likely that Tiwanaku influence spread along extant sociopolitical networks that were in place long before the emergence of the complex civilization centered at the impressive monumental site of Tiwanaku.  Research at the site of Pirque Alto and our regional survey are methodological approaches essential to identifying long distance sociocultural networks of the Formative Period and testing whether or not it was these networks that facilitated the processes by which Tiwanaku influence spread into the valleys of Cochabamba.  As such, our research represents an attempt to better understand the important anthropological issue of how complex civilizations emerge and spread into more peripheral regions, using the Parotani region as a case study, thus contributing significantly the ongoing research on complex civilization in the Andes (cited above) and elsewhere.

To date, our research has resulted in a number of professional presentations, reports, and publications, some of which are listed below.

Professional Presentations, Reports, and Publications

2009    Local Copper Production during the Middle Horizon at the Pirque Alto Site, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Paper presented at the 74th Annual Meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in Atlanta, Georgia. Colin Thomas and Timothy L. McAndrews.

2009    Faunal Resources Use and Exchange during the Late Formative and Tiwanaku Periods in the Cochabamba Lower Valley, Bolivia. Paper presented at the 74th Annual Meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in Atlanta, Georgia. José Capriles, Timothy L. McAndrews, and Claudia Rivera.

2009    Informe Preliminar de Flotación y Análisis de Muestras Recolectadas en la Temporada de Campo 2007 Proyecto Parotani. Zulema Terceros Céspedes.

2008    Use and Exchange of Faunal Resources During the Late Formative and Tiwanaku Periods in the Cochabamba Lower Valley, Bolivia / Intercambio y Aprovechamiento de Recursos Faunísticos Durante los Períodos Formativo Tardío y Tiwanaku en el Valley Bajo de Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Paper presented at the Primer Congreso Nacional de Zooarqueología Argentina in Malargüé, Argentina. José Capriles Flores, Claudia Rivera Casanovas, and Timothy L. McAndrews.

2007    Report on Prehistoric Parotani Settlement Project, 2007 Field Season: Excavations at Pirque Alto (CP-11).  Research report submitted to INIAM, Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Timothy L. McAndrews.

2007    Proyecto Arqueológico Parotani: Sociedades Aldeanas Tempranas y Trayectorias Socio-Culturales Posteriores en Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Edited research report submitted to INIAM, Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Edited by Claudia Rivera and Tim McAndrews (contributors include Karina Aranda, Carla Jaimes, Tim McAndrews, and Claudia Rivera.

2007    The 2007 Excavations at Pirque Alto, a Multicomponent Site in the Department of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Paper presented at the 26th Annual Conference on Andean Archaeology and Ethnohistory in Ithaca, New York, by Timothy L. McAndrews and Elizabeth Green.

2006    Preliminary Results from the Multicomponent Site of Pirque Alto in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Poster presented at the 71st Annual Meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Tim McAndrews, Claudia Rivera, and Carla Jaimes.

2005    Proyecto Parotani: Informe Preliminar Temporada de Campo.  Preliminary research report submitted to INAM.  Claudia Rivera and Tim McAndrews.

2005    The Earliest Settled Villages in the Andean Highlands of South America.  Presentation for the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center Lecture Series, September 20, 2005 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Tim McAndrews

Graduate and Undergraduate Theses by North American Students

2009    An Evaluation of Camelid Skeletal Frequencies, Patterning, Deposition, and Food Utility at the Site of Pirque Alto, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Elizabeth Green, Master of Arts Thesis, Binghamton University, State University of New York.

2009    Looking for the Past in the Present: Ethnoarchaeology of Plant Utilization in Rural Bolivia. Natasha Musalem-Perez, Bachelor of Arts Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosses.

2009    An Analysis of Surface and Subsurface Ceramics in Relation to Formation Processes at the Archaeological Site of Pirque Alto (CP-11) in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Lauren Roeglin, Bachelor of Science Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2009    Domestic Architecture in the South-Central Andes: Placing the Pirque Alto (CP-11) Wall Foundation in Perspective. Jaclyn Rogers, Bachelor of Arts Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2009    Burial Practices of the Tiwanaku: A Comparative Analysis of Skeletal Remains from Cochabamba, Bolivia. Kallie Seifert, Bachelor of Science Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2008    EMPA and EDXA Analysis of Slag from the Multicomponent Site of Pirque Alto, Bolivia. Colin Thomas, Bachelor of Science Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2007    Analysis of Archaeological Sampling Methods Using the Complete Surface Data from the Pirque Alto Site in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Elizabeth Green, Bachelor of Arts Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2007    Evaluation of the Nature of Tiwanaku Presence in the Cochabamba Valley of Bolivia: A Ceramic Analysis of the Pirque Alto Site (CP-11). Elizabeth Plunger, Bachelor of Arts Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

2004    Comparative Study of Formative Period Basalt Artifacts in the Bolivian Highlands. Rebecca Hein, Bachelor of Science Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

References 

Brockington, Donald L., David M. Pereira Herrera, Ramón Sanzetenea Rocha, and María de los Angeles Muños

1995     Estudios Arqueologicos del Periodo Formativo en el Sur-Este de Cochabamba.  Cuadernos de Investigacion Serie Arqueologia, No. 8.  Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Instituto Antropológico y Museo, Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Flannery, Kent V.

1972     The Origins of the Village as a Settlement Type in Mesoamerica and the Near East: A Comparative Study.  In Man, Settlement, and Urbanism, ed. by P. J. Ucko, R. Tringham, and G. W. Dimbleby, pp. 23-53.  London: Duckworth.

Goldstein, Paul S.

2005     Andean Diaspora: The Tiwanaku Colonies and the Origins of South American Empire.  University of Florida Press.

Higueras-Hare, Alvaro

1996     Prehispanic Settlement and Land Use in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Janusek, John Wayne

2004     Identity and Power in the Ancient Andes: Tiwanaku Cities Through Time.  Routledge.

McAndrews, Timothy L.

2001     Organización y Crecimiento de los Sistemas de Asentamiento Tempranos Basados en Aldeas en el Altiplano Andino Sur Central.  In El Período Formativo en Bolivia: Regiones y Sociedades.  Textos Antropológicos Volumen 13, Números 1-2: 135-145.

2005     Wankarani Settlement Systems in Evolutionary Perspective: A Study in Early Village-Based Society and Long-Term Cultural Evolution in the South Central Andean Altiplano.  University of Pittsburgh Memoirs in Latin American Archaeology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Plural Editores, La Paz, Bolivia.

McAndrews, Timothy L. and Claudia Rivera

2005     Proyecto Parotani: Informe Preliminar Temporada de Campo.  Report submitted to the Universidad Mayor de San Simón Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas y Museo Arqueológico.  Timothy L. McAndrews and Claudia Rivera Casanovas.

McAndrews, Timothy L., Claudia Rivera, and Carla Jaimes

2006     Preliminary Results from the Multicomponent Site of Pirque Alto in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Poster presented at the 71st annual meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Pereira Herrera, David M., Donald L. Brockington, and Ramón Sanzetenea Rocha

2000     Investigaciones Arqueologicas en las Tierras Tropicales del Departamento de Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Stanish, Charles

2003     Ancient Titicaca: The Evolution of Complex Societies in Southern Peru and Northern Bolivia.  University of California Press.

Stanish, Charles, Amanda B. Cohen, and Mark S. Aldenderfer

2005     Advances in Titicaca Basin Archaeology - 1.  Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.