Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Shimada, Izumi


This dissertation is a diachronic settlement and landscape study undertaken from an interpretive archaeology perspective. The outcome of this study has been an interpretation of the settlement and landscape configurations as well as of the sociopolitical organization during the entire prehispanic occupation (ca. 1100 B.C.- A.D. 1532) of the Upper Piura River Valley in the Far North Coast of Perú. Also, the sociopolitical interaction between the local polities of the Upper Piura River Valley and the southern foreign Northern North Coast polities has been assessed. The Far North Coast is not an environmentally "marginal" area as compared to the Northern North Coast. Yet, in terms of its prehispanic cultural development, it often has been characterized as "marginal" or "peripheral". Such characterization is due in part to an overemphasis on the study of Mochica style cultural materials found in the Far North Coast. In particular, the emphasis on analyses of "high quality" Mochica ceramics has led to interpretations that view local Upper Piura River Valley sociopolitical developments from the perspective of the "dominant" Northern North Coast societies in an unbalanced situation disregarding the perspective of the supposedly "weaker, less developed" local societies. In this sense, interpretations drawn from iconographic and stylistic analyses of objects on the one hand, and from landscape analyses on the other, seem like two different versions of the same story. Since the latter is so uncommon and unexplored in Andean archaeology, I chose to apply it in this dissertation. For that purpose I followed two different but complementary paths of interpretation. The first path is an interpretation of the landscape from a dwelling perspective. The goal was to create an analogy of the experience of past individuals through an embodiment process via the movement of my body and mind through the landscape features. A second path of interpretation was merged with the first one. This second path comprised a classic settlement pattern analysis oriented to clarify the nature of the sociopolitical interaction between local polities of the Upper Piura River Valley and the intrusive polities of the Northern North Coast. The second path of interpretation also entailed overlapping the settlement patterns observed onto the spatial structures and topograms defined and interpreted by the dwelling perspective. As a result, I found that the study area is characterized by a 2600-year long process of dwelling in the landscape. Through this process and along the years, yet following a long, local process, revolving around the topograms, the landscapes conceptualizations and configurations changed. Two moments of the settlements and landscapes configurations were defined: the "old system" and the "new system". For most of its history (through all the "old system" and the first epoch of the "new system"), and acknowledging the mutual cultural influence with other areas (e.g., the Northern North Coast), the local landscape and settlement configurations were not disrupted and engaged in an egalitarian or coevolving sociopolitical interaction. Yet during the second epoch of the "new system", this situation changed drastically when a hierarchical and coercive interaction structure developed during the Chimú and Inca periods.




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