Picture of Marcaya from the Top
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Archaeological Investigations at Marcaya: A Village Approach to Nasca Sociopolitical and Economic Organization
Website of Kevin J. Vaughn, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Website of Kevin J. Vaughn, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
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View of Marcaya from the top. The "bright" places on the hillside are patio groups. The
Tierras Blancas River Valley is below.
Archaeological research surrounding
Nasca, a prehistoric multi-village
polity that flourished on the south
coast of Peru during the Early Inter-
mediate Period (A.D. 1-750) has been
continuing for nearly a century now.
While much is known about its
ceramics, geoglyphs ("Nasca Lines"),
and ceremonial center Cahuachi, very
little is known about the village
context of Nasca society. To that end,
this dissertation takes a village
approach to the study of Early Nasca
sociopolitical and economic organi-
zation by evaluating a single Early
Nasca village, Marcaya.

After introducing the historical and
archaeological context of this study,
the theoretical assumptions inherent
in this work are outlined. While the
research takes a village approach to
Early Nasca society, the primary
analytical unit employed in fieldwork
was the archaeological household.
Patio groups at Marcaya are argued to
be prehistoric households. They are
distinct structure clusters, they are
repeated throughout the community,
and they contain the material
correlates of domestic activities.

Excavations at Marcaya demonstrate
that it was an Early Nasca community
dating to the late fourth and early
fifth centuries A.D. It was composed
of at least 23 self-sufficient house-
holds that engaged in a variety of
domestic activities including sub-
sistence production and storage, and
lithic and textile production.
Similar to ethnohistoric and ethno-
graphic examples of Andean
communities, the village of Marcaya
employed a mixed agropastoral
subsistence economy augmented with
reciprocal exchanges for goods such
as obsidian.

Marcaya was economically self-
sufficient, and the primary economic
unit was the household. The ex-
ception to this self-sufficiency was
pottery production as no evidence for
production was found at the site.
Despite this lack of evidence, the
vessel assemblage at Marcaya
indicates that Nasca polychrome
fineware was a ubiquitous element
in Nasca society, as a very high
quantity of fineware is present in
the assemblage.

A pilot Instrumental Neutron
Activation Analysis (INAA) was
conducted to evaluate the chemical
composition of the ceramic
assemblage. The results of this
analysis suggest that Nasca fineware
was manufactured in specialized
contexts, and the implications for
these results are discussed.

Finally, Marcaya is discussed in the
broader context of Early Nasca
society. To that end, Cahuachi is
discussed in light of the new findings
from this research, and a hypo-
thetical model of Early Nasca society
is proposed. The dissertation
concludes with directions for
future research.
A Photo of the modern town of Nasca.
A view of the modern town of Nasca.
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