Utilizing Archaeological Data as a Proxy for Environmental Change and ENSO Activity on the Peruvian North Coast

Title

Utilizing Archaeological Data as a Proxy for Environmental Change and ENSO Activity on the Peruvian North Coast

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Research Question

Climate change, sea surface temperature change, El Niño periodicity, and biological baselines for maritime resources are critical issues in the modern world. These have been characterized and studied using a number of proxies, but rarely have archaeological data been used to address them. Archaeological data in the form of preserved fish, sea mammal, and sea bird remains are abundant and often well preserved in coastal shell midden sites around the world. Can the analysis of these remains provide an independent and unbiased measure of shifting biomass, climate change, and El Niño frequency though the Holocene period?

Award

CGS Research Excellence Award

Significance

Archaeological materials from the coast of Peru provide a rich and abundant data set for addressing changing climatic, environmental, and coastal biomass throughout the Holocene. These datasets have been largely underutilized in these studies and have the potential to provide independent lines of evidence for the past 10,000 years, long before the advent of written records of biomass and climate change.

Methods Used

This pilot project will utilize previously excavated fish, sea mammal, and sea bird remains from the site of Magdalena de Cao Viejo on the north coast of Peru to document shifting ratios of warm and cold water species and to estimate animal size before, during, and after a historically documented El Niño event.

Conclusions/Outcomes

This research constitutes a pilot project or proof of concept. If successful, this work will lead to a larger grant supporting a multi-year, multidisciplinary investigation of climate change, ENSO, marine baselines, and social complexity along the coast of Peru.

Publication Date

2016

Department

Anthropology

Utilizing Archaeological Data as a Proxy for Environmental Change and ENSO Activity on the Peruvian North Coast

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