This study examines the relationship between agricultural intensification and social complexity in past societies using a diachronic, contextualized population, the Nasca of the southern coast of Peru (AD. 1-750). Using stable isotope analysis of human bone collagen, we tested social assumptions arising from the relationship between agricultural intensification and social complexity during the Nasca's cultural fluorescence, including the construction of underground filtration galleries (puquios). Our data show that while agricultural intensification may have spurred social complexity in the Nasca region, it engendered few significant differences in access to foodstuffs. High status individuals in Nasca society had access to more meat than low status individuals, especially during time periods characterized by more social conflict, increasing trade routes, and agricultural intensification. Meat consumption may have been an important marker of status identity among the Nasca. Nasca elites, however, did not control access to agricultural products such as maize as effectively as they did meat. These dietary data support the contention that an indigenous process of innovation and intensification was the major catalyst to later social complexity in the Nasca population from the Las Trancas Valley.
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