Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.



When the circulation networks implemented by Tiwanaku in the South Central Andes broke down, there began a process of political disintegration that materialized into a series of villagelevel territorial and political units competing for resources – a process with significant social and economic consequences (Schiappacasse et al. 1989).

It has been suggested for the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1450 AD), that the Tarapacá region was united and controlled by a socio-political unit that reformulated the social and geographic landscape. The reformulation incorporated resources from different ecological zones by means of a dispersed settlement pattern and llama caravanning practices, all of which would in turn involve multi-ethnic encounters between the local population and people from neighboring Arica, Atacama and the Bolivian plateau (Núñez & Dillehay 1979; Núñez 1984).

Known as the Pica Tarapacá Complex, this socio-political unit was initially defined by Núñez (1984) as Tarapacá people who occupied the space between the rivers Loa and Camiña, from the Pacific coast to the low and middle inland valleys – up to 2500 m.a.s.l. that developed during the Late Intermediate Period, 1000-1450 AD. This intermediate occupation between Arica and Atacama forms a “Complex” of different types of sites with a shared local material culture owing to intense interregional traffic and exchange, within the territory crisscrossed by Arica, coastal, mountain, plateau and Atacameño components, Two rivers that flow into the Pacific mark this territory’s boundaries: the Camarones to the north, and the Loa to the south. The waterways in-between dry up before reaching the ocean, pouring into the Pampa del Tamarugal. The Camiña is the last river to empty into the Pacific; from the Camiña, the so-called “coastal desert” unravels southward to the Loa. This region’s highlands border the Southern highlands where the salt flats of Coipasa and Uyuni are located (Fig. 1).