Andes: Origins and Development of Agriculture

  • Elmo Leon
Living reference work entry


Terminal Pleistocene horticultural societies such as the Natufian complex of the Near East that domesticated wheat at c. 14,000 BCE were not alone in the world at that time. Recent interdisciplinary research show that past tropical Andean societies began to experiment with cultigens approximately 12,000 BCE, i.e., somewhat coeval with other pristine cultures around the world.

Two main effects resulted from this early plant manipulation process. The first one was the in-crescendo guarantee of stocking staples, which ensured quasi-permanent food among ancient Andean societies. The second effect was the resulting decrease in mobility of plant manipulators, who learned to plant seeds near camps and dwelling structures, thus providing food in one place, and therefore the preference of establishing in the same place.

Andean civilizations learned not only to domesticate plants since the Terminal Pleistocene/Early Holocene but completed domestication prior to the emergence of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bonavia, D. 1982. Los Gavilanes. Mar, desierto y oasis en la historia del hombre precerámico peruano. Lima: Cofide and Kommission für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Archäologie des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts.Google Scholar
  2. Denevan, W., K. Mathewson, and G. Knapp. 1987. Pre-Hispanic agricultural fields in the Andean region. Vol. 359, British Archaeological Reports International series. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  3. Dillehay, T.D., ed. 2011. From foraging to farming in the Andes. New perspectives on food production and social organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Farrington, I.S. 1980. The archaeology of irrigation canals with special reference to Peru. World Archaeology (London) 11 (3): 287–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Grobman, A., D. Bonavia, T.D. Dillehay, D.R. Piperno, J. Iriarte, and I. Holst. 2012. Preceramic maize from Paredones and Huaca Prieta, Peru. PNAS 109 (5): 1755–1759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Lane, K. 2009. Engineered highlands: The social organization of water in the ancient north-central Andes (AD 1000–1480). World Archaeology 41 (1): 169–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lynch, T.F. 1980. Guitarrero Cave. Early cave in the Andes. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  8. Pearsall, D.M. 2008. Plant domestication and the shift to agriculture in the Andes. In Handbook of South American archaeology, ed. H. Silverman and W.H. Isbell, 105–120. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Piperno, D.R., and D.M. Pearsall. 1998. The origins of agriculture in the lowland neotropics. San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  10. Piperno, D., and K. Stothert. 2003. Phytolith evidence for early Holocene Cucurbita domestication in South West Ecuador. Science 299 (5609): 1054–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Schreiber, K., and J. Lancho. 2006. Aguas en el desierto. Los puquios de Nasca. Lima: pucp.Google Scholar
  12. Ugent, D., S. Pozorski, and T. Pozorski. 1983. Restos arqueológicos de tubérculos de papas y camotes de Casma en el Perú. Boletín de Lima 25: 28–44.Google Scholar
  13. Zeder, M.A., E. Emshwiller, B.D. Smith, and D.G. Bradley. 2006. Documenting domestication: The intersection of genetics and archaeology. Trends in Genetics 22 (3): 139–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Dillehay, T., H. Eling, and J. Rossen. 2005. Preceramic irrigation canals in the Peruvian Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 102 (47): 17241–17244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Donkin, R. 1979. Agricultural terracing in the Aboriginal New World. Tucson: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Erickson, C. 2000. The Lake Titicaca basin. A pre-Columbian built landscape. In Imperfect balance: Landscape transformations in the pre-Columbian Americas, ed. D. Lentz, 311–356. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. MacNeish, R.S. 1969. First annual report of the Ayacucho archaeological-botanical project. Andover: Robert S. Peabody Foundation on Archaeology.Google Scholar
  5. Pozorski, T., S. Pozorski, C.J. Mackey, and A. Klymyshyn. 1983. Pre-Hispanic ridged fields of the Casma Valley, Peru. Geographical Review 73: 407–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Reichel Dolmatoff, G., and A. Reichel-Dolmatof. 1974. Un sistema de agricultura prehistórico en los Llanos Orientales. Revista Colombiana de Antropología 17: 191–194.Google Scholar
  7. Troll, C. 1931. Die geographischen Grundlagen der andinen Kulturen und des Incareiches. Ibero Amerikanisches Archiv (III) 5 (3): 257–294.Google Scholar
  8. Yacovleff, E., and F. Herrera. 1934. Elmundo vegetal de los antiguos peruanos. Revista del Museo Nacional 3: 240–322.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of PeruLimaPeru

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marcel Otte
    • 1
  1. 1.Service of PrehistoryUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium