November 12, 2017
Ancient Peru Shellfish Diplomacy
Archaeologist Kasia Szremski has excavated at the Salitre and Campo Libre sites in Peru. She found extravagant artifacts at the Salitre site: decorated pottery, a spondylus shell, ornamented silver. They held huge feasts of mollusks, pumpkins, beans and other items. She believes that the Salitre people, an outpost of the Chancay culture, traded shellfish for access to the Huanangue River. The Chaupiyunginos lived upstream, and could have cut off the water to Salitre and other Chancay villages that needed the water for crops. The feasting at Salitre took place at a time of widespread warfare, in the 15th century, as the area became balkanized after the collapse of the Wari empire. So the Salitre and Chaupiyunginos feasted and traded together to prevent conflict.
The great Tom Dillehay says the two cultures were “highly entangled”—they had a variety of economic, political, and social interactions with each interaction affecting the others. And shellfish for water diplomacy led to peace between them.
The report is here in Haika magazine;
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