Human Ecology

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 89–104

Dung as an essential resource in a highland Peruvian community


  • Bruce Winterhalder
    • Department of AnthropologyCornell University
  • Robert Larsen
    • Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Wisconsin
  • R. Brooke Thomas
    • Department of AnthropologyCornell University

DOI: 10.1007/BF01558115

Cite this article as:
Winterhalder, B., Larsen, R. & Thomas, R.B. Hum Ecol (1974) 2: 89. doi:10.1007/BF01558115


The present paper examines the use of dung for two essential human resources, fuel and fertilizer, in a highland community of southern Peru. The limited energy availability and the poor soils of the region, primarily the result of high-altitude climate and topography, necessitate this practice. Alternatives to dung use are costly or unavailable. Grazing herbivores transform the widely dispersed puna grasses into a compact and easily gathered source of energy and nutrients. Native choice among available dungs corresponds to their qualities: sheep dung, richest in nutrients, is applied as fertilizer; llama and cattle dungs, each with a high caloric value, are burned as fuels. Dung use is interpreted as an energetically efficient response to the highland environment and as central to the subsistence pattern in the area.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1974