A team of G&A archaeologists surveyed the Nepeña Valley in Peru this July for evidence of ancient warfare as part of a research project led by assistant professor David Chicoine.
The team, which included graduate students Steve Treloar, Kimberly Munro and Craig Dengel, focused on an area around the ruins of Caylán, located in the northern Peruvian desert about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Caylán (800-1 BCE) was the largest urban settlement that developed in the valley and the capital of a complex chiefdom that developed in the lower Nepeña. Local economies relied on a combination of irrigation farming, marine fishing, and trade, but the presence of elaborate defensive infrastructures indicates major tensions between communities.
The team set out to find traces of ancient political conflicts, specifically defensive architecture. They focused on recording the ancient system of walls, outposts, and fortresses, hoping to define the scale of conflicts, degrees of communal integration, and defensive strategies
In addition to confirming that Caylán people did in fact gather at the urban center to organize defense during heightened political tensions and inter-personal violence, the team documented a vast integrated defensive system that engaged several different communities spread over a territory of more than 40 square miles.
This discovery confirms the central role of warfare in the development of political leadership, as well as trajectories of ancient city life and regional integration.
Results of the project have appeared in Antiquity and Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology, and are currently in press with the Journal of Field Archaeology and the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology.
The Caylán project is currently funded by a Louisiana Board of Regents grant awarded to Dr. Chicoine.
Photos courtesy of David Chicoine.