Issues of affinity: Exploring population structure in the middle and regional developments periods of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


  • Christina Torres-Rouff,

    Corresponding author
    1. Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, University of California, Merced, CA
    2. Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Museo, Universidad Católica del Norte, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
    • Correspondence to: Christina Torres-Rouff, Anthropology—SSHA, University of California, Merced, 5200 North Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343, USA. E-mail:

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  • Kelly J. Knudson,

    1. Center for Bioarchaeological Research, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
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  • Mark Hubbe

    1. Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Museo, Universidad Católica del Norte, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
    2. Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
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The Middle Period (AD 400–1000) in northern Chile's Atacama oases is characterized by an increase in social complexity and regional interaction, much of which was organized around the power and impact of the Tiwanaku polity. Despite the strong cultural influence of Tiwanaku and numerous other groups evident in interactions with Atacameños, the role of immigration into the oases during this period is unclear. While archaeological and bioarchaeological research in the region has shown no evidence that clearly indicates large groups of foreign immigrants, the contemporary increase in interregional exchange networks connecting the oases to other parts of the Andes suggests residential mobility and the possibility that movement of people both into and out of the oases accompanied these foreign influences. Here, we analyze biodistance through cranial non-metric traits in a skeletal sample from prehistoric San Pedro de Atacama to elucidate the extent of foreign influence in the oases and discuss its implications. We analyzed 715 individuals from the Middle Period (AD 400–1000) and later Regional Developments Period (AD 1000–1450), and found greater phenotypic differences between Middle Period cemeteries than among cemeteries in the subsequent period. We argue that this greater diversity extends beyond the relationship between the oases and the renowned Tiwanaku polity and reflects the role of the oases and its different ayllus as a node and way station for the Middle Period's myriad interregional networks. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:370–382, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.