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The Formative Period in the Titicaca Basin

  • Christine A. Hastorf

The Titicaca basin sits at the northern end of the expansive altiplano high plains, straddling the highland border of modern Peru and Bolivia. The grasslands are excellent for herding and are also arable along the lakeshore, being a center of tuber production and the font of the domestic Chenopodium and the potato. The lake is full of edible fish as well as having a range of useful waterweeds and reeds along the lakeshore. Early human evidence suggests foraging, hunting, fishing, and birding were all productive subsistence strategies. When these activities began in the area is not firmly known, but there are solid dates for foragers by 4000 BC.

At around 1500 BC archaeologists can see evidence of the earliest settlements, small ceremonial centers, and the onset of territoriality. The term Formative is used to encompass these changes in lifeways from the preceding foraging era. The Formative Period [Note 1] (1500 BC-AD 475) is defined as the time when humans began marking their landscape, creating more permanent settlements, while they domesticated plants and animals. The Formative Period witnessed the creation of a series of ritually charged and intensively agricultural-herding based polities. Some consider the Formative Period a time of social stratification development, with political spheres centered at the civic-ceremonial settlements (Stanish 2003). Others see these long-lived centers as illustrating a strong sense of autonomy and sustainability (Hastorf 2003; Bandy 2004). The Formative Period in this part of the highlands spans almost 2,000 years, thus extending up to the early expansion of the Tiwanaku polity influence (see Chapter 37 in this volume). The end of the Late Formative is marked by the large-scale hegemonic shift around AD 475, when Tiwanaku’s influence is evident outside of the Titicaca basin. The 2,000-year temporal sequence of the Titicaca basin Formative Period is presented in Table 28.1, which lists dates, local, regional, and northern phase names and changes in the main environmental entity, the levels of Lake Titicaca.

Keywords

Late Formative Formative Period Early Settlement Southern Basin American Archaeology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine A. Hastorf
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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