Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Shimada, Izumi


This research evaluates the 469 excavated human skeletons of the pre-Hispanic Lima population from Huaca 20 in the Maranga Complex in modern-day Lima, Peru dating to the beginning of the Middle Horizon (ca. 600-900 AD), for evidence of biological stress. From ca. 562-594 CE drought conditions occurred west of the Andes mountains, presumably having an effect on the Lima population and potentially causing this population biological stress. The purpose of this research is to examine whether or not the prolonged drought period negatively impacted the Huaca 20 sample. To evaluate the biological impact of this environmental stress, methods based on the Global History of Health (Steckel et al, 2011) were employed. The Huaca 20 sample was separated according to stratigraphic evidence of significant flooding which marked the end of the drought conditions. The majority of biological stress markers evaluated showed no significant difference between time periods. This result may be due to factors such as migration, the state of preservation of the sample, the biological stress being of too short a duration to appear on the skeleton, and/or the Lima population’s ability to adapt to drought conditions through sociocultural strategies. Mortuary data was employed to further the understanding of the potential negative effects of the prolonged drought period. Based on the two radiocarbon dates collected at Huaca 20 and the evidence of the end of the drought in the form of at least two flooding events, shortly after the drought period Huaca 20 was not used for domestic purposes but shifted to use as a mortuary site. The majority of mortuary goods did not show a significant different between time periods. Undecorated spindle whorls and undecorated spindle whorls showed a significant decline between the pre-flood and peri-flood time periods. This decline may be related to a decline in access to resources. The findings add a biological perspective to the discussion of the possible effects of the prolonged drought period on the Lima. It also provides an basis for comparison of biological markers of stress with other contemporaneous Andean peoples, as well as other populations experiencing environmental stress. This research will further illuminate on periods of environmental stress, which have occurred throughout history. The better understood responses to environmental stress are both postivie and negative, the better the world community today can prepare for them.




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