Archaeology and History of the Northern Andes: current topics and trends

The Northern Andes–a macro-region formed by Peru’s northern end, the entire Andean and costal areas of Ecuador, and southwestern Colombia–has held a marginal position in the debates about archaeology, anthropology, and history of the Andes. Known also as Andes de Páramo (Andean Wetlands), this space seems to occupy a secondary position in the academic world for Andeanists, when compared with the attention paid to the highlands and the puna of Peru and Bolivia. The Northern Andes were initially defined more by the absence of social, historical, and environmental features when compared with the Central and Southern Andes, than by its own dynamics and cultural developments.

On the other hand, they were viewed as a tropical area with unclear and blurry limits with respect to the rest of the Andes and the Caribbean. Despite the noticeable efforts made during the 20th century to define the characteristics of what we call norandino (northandean), and the attempts to compare and contrast socio-historical similarities and the formation of territories with other mountain areas of South America, the first quarter of the 21st century has not witnessed any synoptic nor comparative approaches of the Andean histories of Northern Peru, Ecuador, and Southern Colombia.

This void has prevented recent investigations and achievements to be better known, as well as a more widespread knowledge of the new reflections that such research has generated about traditional topics, such as Pre-Hispanic chronology, the relationships and symbiosis between cordilleran highlands and tropical lowlands to the west and east, and the advance of the Inca to the north. There are also a number of novel topics, as for example the link between volcanic activity and the archaeology of human settlements, historical archaeology of the Colonial Period, and the uses and appropriation of archaeological heritage.

Photo: Heimar Cortés

In order to offset the lack of comparative and multidisciplinary discussions about the Northern Andes, a group of colleagues from Ecuador and Colombia who have concentrated their archaeological, anthropological, and historical research on this area has set out a series of round-table discussions with the support of the French Institute of Andean Studies (IFEA) to foster the exchange of knowledge and ideas. In general, the focus will be on questions such as the formation of this territory, how to comprehend its different times and the diversity of its historical and cultural experiences, and how to approach its relationships with other cultural spaces of the Andes. On the other hand, the goal is to disseminate these conversations to a wide audience of different academic specialties. The objective of this blog is to promote the topics and discussions of the themes selected, as well as the documentation related to the problems tackled.


The round tables will address the following topics:

1. Chronology and Dating

2. Volcanic Activity and Geoarchaeology

3. Highland-Lowland Interactions

4. Presence or Absence of the Incas and the Formation of Imperial Borders

5. The Northern Andes Seen from Historical Archaeology

Each main topic will identify its most actual and distinctive problem with the aim of formulating some key questions to invited researchers. Each guest will have twenty minutes for answering, after which there will be space for debating and discussing also with the public.

Galeras volcano from the west. Photo: Felipe Cárdenas

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