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Aspero, one of the largest known Cotton Preceramic Period settlements in Peru. Radiocarbon dates place the peak occupation between 3000 bce and 2500 bce. Aspero is located just north of the floodplain of the Supe River on the Pacific coast of Peru. The site is about 5,350,000-7,150,000 cubic feet of ashy midden covering thirty acres. It has at least fourteen corporate labor platform mounds, the largest about 115 feet wide, 165 feet long, and 33 feet high.

The mounds are layers of rooms that were partially demolished and filled in to form an elevated base for new rooms. The rooms were not domestic but rather appear to have been used for ritual activity. Some were decorated with colored paint, clay friezes, and wall niches. In the larger mounds, the rooms were approached from a central stairway and were hierarchically arranged, that is, access to one was through another, with the inner rooms the most highly decorated. The size and complexity of these structures indicate the existence of a complex sociopolitical organization, most likely a chiefdom, to coordinate the significant labor force needed for their construction.

Artifacts included twined cotton and bast fiber textiles, bags, and nets; reed baskets; gourd bowls; pecked-and-ground stone tools and bowls; carved wood, bone, and shell ornaments; and unbaked clay human figurines. Most of these figurines represented females, some pregnant. All but one were found in a cache sealed between two floors in one of the large mounds, where they appear to have been a symbolic dedicatory burial.

Supporting a sizeable population, the subsistence economy was mixed, with the primary marine food sources—mainly small fish and shellfish—supplemented with fruits, peppers, legumes, and tubers such as achira (Canna edulis). While the beans, peppers, tubers, and some fruits were cultivated, most agriculture was directed toward producing raw materials for textiles (cotton) and containers (gourds). Maize too was probably present. Archaeologists have debated the amount of aquatic life and agriculture in the diet of these early coastal inhabitants.

See alsoArchaeologyxml .


Michael E. Moseley and Gordon R. Willey, "Aspero, Peru: A Reexamination of the Site and Its Implications," in American Antiquity 38 (1973): 452-468.

Robert A. Feldman, "Preceramic Corporate Architecture: Evidence for the Development of Non-Egalitarian Social Systems in Peru," in Early Ceremonial Architecture in the Andes, edited by C. B. Donnan (1985).

Robert A. Feldman, "Preceramic Unbaked Clay Figurines from Aspero, Peru," in The New World Figurine Project, edited by Terry Stocker (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Blake, Michael, ed. Pacific Latin America in Prehistory: The Evolution of Archaic and Formative Cultures. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1999.

Bonavia, Duccio, Claudia Grimaldo, and Jimi Espinoza. Bibliografía del período precerámico peruano. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Fondo Editorial, Academia Nacional de la Historia, 2001.

Moseley, Michael E. The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992.

                                      Robert A. Feldman

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