This chapter looks at the role of irrigation agriculture, warfare (lack thereof), and religion in the origins and development of the power relationship in an extraordinary early political system. Data are drawn from a cluster of small valleys on the north-central Peruvian coast–a region known as the Norte Chico–where recent research has revealed a pattern of more than 20 large sites. These sites all have major monumental architecture and were occupied in the third millennium B.C. This concentration of major residential and ceremonial centers, thriving between 3000 and 1800 B.C., serves as an ideal laboratory for studying the florescence and subsequent development of one of the first complex, centralized political systems to arise in the Andean region. These sites are directly associated with the introduction of irrigation in the area and a rapid transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. In what appears to be a truly “pristine” situation, this complex of sites provides a window into how leaders first emerged in early centralized polities and how those leaders came to exercise significant power over their respective subject populations.
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