Origins of prehispanic camelid wool textiles from the north and central coasts of Peru traced by carbon and nitrogen isotopic analyses

Paul Szpak (Lead Author), Jean-François Millaire, Christine White, George Lau, Flannery Surette, Fred Longstaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions of wool textiles from the north (Virú, Early Intermediate Period) and central (Chancay, Late Intermediate Period) coasts of Peru were used to reconstruct the diet and habitat of the camelids (llamas and alpacas) from which they were produced in order to better understand the regional political economies. The Chancay textiles were derived from camelids primarily raised on highaltitude C3 grasslands. Similarly, isotopic data from Virú textiles assembled in north-coast styles are consistent with the importation of highland camelid wool. For both Virú and Chancay, imported raw materials were crafted in local styles, serving as an effective means of materializing corporate power. Stylistically foreign (noncoastal) Virú textiles were characterized by carbon isotopic compositions similar to those for camelids recovered from Early Intermediate Period sites in the Virú Valley and suggest that these textiles originated in the yungas (1,000–2,300 m asl) or the low sierra (2,300–3,500 m asl). Accordingly, although highland camelid wool was imported to the coast, a simple model of exchange involving the movement of wool textiles exclusively from the puna or the altiplano to the coast is untenable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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