Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

Living Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith (Editor-in-Chief)

Early Peopling of the Atacama Desert

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_3023-1


The hyperarid conditions of the Atacama Desert preserve remarkable evidence of ancient human foragers beginning at least 13,000 years ago. Although initially considered a harsh and inhospitable environment, recent interdisciplinary research suggests that the Atacama was originally inhabited by highly mobile hunter-gatherers bearing complex technological toolkits in what was a much wetter and ecologically more productive climate (Latorre et al. 2013; Núñez et al. 2002). Ongoing research is exploring the complexity of the socio-environmental dynamics that featured the peopling of the Atacama in the process of the early human colonization of South America, as well as during subsequent cycles of dramatic climate change, social transformations, and population displacements (Santoro et al. 2017).


The Atacama Desert extends over 10° of latitude from southern Peru to the Copiapó Valley (~17–27°S), encompassing the greater part of northern Chile and stretching from the...
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Further Reading

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio de Arqueología y Paleoambiente, Instituto de Alta InvestigaciónUniversidad de TarapacáAricaChile
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología y Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LINCGlobal), Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)Pontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas y ArqueológicasUniversidad Mayor de San AndrésLa PazBolivia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Chen Shen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of World CulturesRoyal Ontario MuseumTorontoCanada