Preludes to Power in the Highland Late Preceramic Period

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Abstract

Although the dramatic differences in cultural complexity between the Pacific littoral cultures and those in the Andean highlands during the Late Preceramic Period have long been known, until recently explanations for them have not been forthcoming. In part, this has been because of shortcomings of empirical data from the highlands as well as a general lack of systematic attempts to look at the nature and origins of persistent leadership strategies and how these might be defined in the Andes. This chapter reviews the ethnographic data on incipient forms of persistent leadership, examines the archaeological record of the Late Preceramic in the highlands for signs of it, and suggests potential explanations for why persistent leadership is uncommon. Those forms of leadership that do appear in the Late Preceramic appear to be based on lineage principles and the control of religious beliefs through ritual practice and are found in ecological contexts of relative resource abundance.

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