ABSTRACT

Reciprocal relations among the populations of northwestern Argentina and the oases of San Pedro de Atacama have been documented from the Colonial until the Republican periods. Archaeological evidence from Candelaria, Tafí, Vaquerías, Condorhuasi, and Ciénaga cultures extend this social relationship back to the first centuries AD. However, between 900 BC and AD 400, movements of people, llamas, and objects from northwestern Argentina were not limited to places around the Atacama salt flat, but encompassed a broader network of prestige that included the Pacific Coast between Taltal and Caleta Huelén: the oases of Quillagua, Calama, and Chiu Chiu, the highland Turi grasslands, and the archaeological villages of Guatacondo in the Pampa del Tamarugal. We present a summary of trans-Andean findings in different locations of the Atacama Desert and the southern Pampa del Tamarugal. Our purpose is to offer a simple initial model of long-distance circulation that allows an understanding of the regional fabric woven by communities, people, animals, and objects of different cultural traditions. We conclude by presenting the problems associated with the regional intercultural experience, the relative value implicit in these transactions, and the consequences of this type of construction of social complexity.