The Clock in the Corn Cob: On the Development of a Chronology of the Paracas and Nasca Period Based on Radiocarbon Dating

  • Ingmar Unkel
  • Bernd Kromer
Part of the Natural Science in Archaeology book series (ARCHAEOLOGY)


The people of the Paracas and Nasca cultures, who created the world-famous geoglyphs, lived in the desert of the south coast of Peru approximately between 800 cal BC and 630 cal AD. The archaeological chronology of these cultures thus far was based almost exclusively on a sequence of seriated ceramic styles. The numeric dating of some of the style phases was supported only by few radiocarbon dates. Here we present the first numeric chronology of the Paracas and Nasca culture based on 14C-dating of approximately 120 organic samples from settlement and tomb relics, as well as on material derived from geoglyph sites in the Nasca/Palpa region (South Peru). It is thus far the largest detailed numeric chronology for pre-Columbian times in all of South America. The main focus has been on the Nasca settlement centers near Palpa, Los Molinos, and La Muña, the Paracas site of Jauranga and the Initial period site of Pernil Alto. Most of the 14C-samples have been dated at the AMS facilities at the ETH Zürich (Switzerland) and at the Lund University (Sweden). The targets were produced in the new graphitization line at the Heidelberg 14C-laboratory (Germany), which was designed and developed during the NTG-project.


Radiocarbon Date Archaeological Context Middle Horizon Graphitisation Line Style Element 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ingmar Unkel
    • 1
  • Bernd Kromer
  1. 1.Department of Physics, Nuclear PhysicsLund University22100 LundSweden

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