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People and Plants in Northern Peru: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of the Use of Plants in the Fishing Community of Huanchaco
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Ethnoarchaeology studies modern patterns of human behavior to understand and reconstruct past cultural practices as reflected in the archaeological record. The well-studied flora, the good preservation of botanical remains, and the well-known cultural groups, make the northern coastal region of Peru an ideal study area to conduct ethnoarchaeological investigations on plant uses. Huanchaco is a beachside town located in northern Peru where the local fishing community relies on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about the use of plants. TEK is observed in the construction of reed vessels, known as caballitos de torora, that they use daily for fishing. TEK has been transmitted since prehispanic times as evidenced in the archeological record. To understand the role of plants in the development of human subsistence strategies through time, this dissertation identifies past and present relationships between the fishing community and useful plants of Huanchaco. Modern botanical specimens were collected and identified, today’s fishermen and their relatives were interviewed about the modern plant uses, and plant remains from Initial Period (1500 – 1200 BCE) occupations were analyzed. Results show that the fishing community of Huanchaco use plants mainly for food, medicinal and industrial purposes. Plants from the Fabaceae, Asteraceae and Cucurbitaceae are the most predominant in the modern record and taxa from Poaceae, Solanaceae, Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae and Fabaceae in the archaeological record. Ethnoarchaeological studies along with historical and prehispanic evidence suggests that TEK on plant uses adapted through the generations in response to economic and technological changes that accompanied globalization processes. TEK on the use of plants still plays an important role in the everyday practice of strategies for subsistence in the fishing community of Huanchaco and is considered part of the Peruvian cultural heritage.
Paredes Salcedo, Rossana (2019). People and Plants in Northern Peru: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of the Use of Plants in the Fishing Community of Huanchaco. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from