With National Science Foundation support Drs. Tamara Bray and Cristobal Landazuri will conduct one season of research in the Pimampiro district in northern Ecuador. The district lies at the extreme eastern end of a semi-arid deeply incised river valley in the northernmost highlands of Ecuador at approximately 1600 meters above sea level. The drainage is one of the few that breach the western cordillera to empty into the sea and thus it occupies an unusual and important geographic position. Ecuador, in common with other Andean countries, is characterized by three distinct physiographic zones. A dry Pacific coastal zone, a central mountainous region and an eastern lowland tropical rainforest. Because of their close proximity and the fact that each zone contains unique and valuable resources, archaeologists have focused on the political and economic strategies employed by prehistoric peoples and attempted to determine the extent and nature of trade and interaction across these areas. A series of states and empires arose in many parts of this broad region and scientists wish to understand the extent to which the desire and need to control resources from several zones played a role. It is in this context that Drs. Bray and Landazuri's research is important. Because of its highland position and its easy connection to both Pacific coast as well an Amazonian lowlands, Pimampiro provides an excellent venue to examine the extent and nature of interaction. Using a three pronged approach the researchers plan to examine regional networks of exchange. Although a prehistoric state did not arise in Pimampiro the investigators believe that extensive tans-zonal interaction took place. They will conduct archaeological excavation, examine extensive early Spanish descriptions of the region and analyze botanical remains recovered from prehistoric features. On the basis of preliminary survey, they have decided to focus attention on the site of Shanshipampa. Located on an alluvial terrace of the river valley, the site's most notable feature is a large rectangular stone pavement 31 meters long by 6 meters wide. The pavement contains sculpted motifs which indicate close ties with the eastern lowlands. Two adjacent carved stone monuments contain images of monkeys and snakes suggestive of tropical lowland fauna. Through excavation of both agricultural surfaces and house mounds it should be possible to determine the crops produced (and whether they served as trade goods) and also the ethnicity of the inhabitants. On the basis of descriptions in ethnohistoric documents it is possible that lowland peoples resided in specific parts of the valley and the researchers wish to determine if this in fact occurred. This research is important for several reasons. It will help to fill an important geographic gap in the archaeological record and provide data of interest to many archaeologists. It will also provide insight into the large scale inter-regional subsistence adaptations.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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Wayne State University
United States
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