• agro-pastoral practices;
  • herding;
  • agriculture;
  • South American camelids;
  • maize


We report a study of the organisation of camelid production at the Ambato Valley, northern Argentine Andes, between the 6th and 11th centuries ad. We aim to contribute to the understanding of the different modes of economic production adopted in the past within non-egalitarian social contexts.

In view of this, information collected from previous studies is analysed from multiple perspectives, centering on the application of different analytical techniques to the assemblage of camelid bones (anatomical and taxonomical identification, osteometry and stable isotopes), to their diverse archaeological contexts and architectural and agricultural units, together with the implementation of frames of reference and ethnoarchaeological models. The results support the presence of an organisational mode for the production of plants and animals on the basis of a combination of different agrarian and livestock productive strategies under a unique new integrated agro-pastoral practice, differing from both previous ones. This new practice combined, in the very same land, the use of pens and agriculture terraces in an annual productive cycle adjusted to the seasonal calendar, where maize production was used as stubble for llamas during the dry season, at the same time those fertilised corn fields during fallow.

Although this new practice suggests an intensification in production, the bond and synergy of animal and plant productive strategies in a single practice could be considered risky because it decreases the range of possible responses to external fluctuation, to the extent that these could have influenced simultaneously or indirectly on both resources. This might have implied an extra factor contributing to the destructuration of the Ambato societies around 1000 ad. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.