Lucas Kellett

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This dissertation investigates Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000-1400) hilltop settlements of the central Andean highlands. Rather than a traditional warfare-centered political perspective, the research employs primarily an ecological model in which to evaluate the widespread settlement shift to high altitude ridge tops beginning ca. AD 1000. More specifically, the research investigates the multi-faceted role that climate change may have played in the establishment of LIP hilltop settlements. I examine the concomitant shifts in the local ecology and the economic organization of hilltop communities. Using a multi-scalar and methodologically diverse research design, incorporating ethnohistory, field survey, excavation and GIS, I examine the archaeological and physical landscape around a sample of large Chanka hilltop settlements. Specifically, I adopt a settlement ecology approach in which to evaluate the individual factors which contributed to the high elevation settlement pattern. I argue that the relocation of local populations to high elevation aggregated sites was symptomatic of large scale environmental, rather than political change. More specifically, I argue that regional hilltop settlement was linked to a change in subsistence with a new emphasis on high altitude agro-pastoralism, which would have been an effective risk reduction strategy, most effectively organized from these new settlement locations. In this context, I assert that regional conflict is more accurately understood as an outcome of resource and economic stress during a time of increased aridity. On a broader scale this study makes important contributions towards a growing scholarship concerning how prehistoric populations responded and survived in the face of a multitude of co-occurring crises, including political instability, economic stress and climate change.


Archaeology, Chanka, Settlement Ecology, Hilltop Settlement, Warfare

Project Sponsors

University of New Mexico

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Scuderi, Louis

Second Committee Member

Bauer, Brian

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Anthropology Commons