In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pastoralism in the Andes

  • General Introduction
  • Defining Pastoralism as a Way of Life in the Andes
  • Ethnographies of Pastoralist Communities
  • Ritual Practices in Pastoralist Communities
  • Domestication of South American Camelids
  • Hunting to Herding Native American Camelids
  • Human-Camelid Relations in Rock Art
  • Camelid Herding in the Tiwanaku and Wari States
  • The Challenge of Ecological Complementarity (“El Archipiélago Vertical”)
  • Documentary Sources in the Study of Pastoralism in the Andes
  • Ethnoarchaeological Approaches to Pastoralism in the Andes
  • Spatial Approaches to the Study of Pastoralism in the Andes
  • Wild Camelid Fleece, Local Development, and International Markets
  • Pastoralism in the Puna, Climate Variability, and Climate Change

Latin American Studies Pastoralism in the Andes
Penelope Dransart
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0200

General Introduction

The topic considered in this bibliography has emerged fairly recently. Pastoralism is a subsistence economy in which people keep large herds of animals, and it is based on the extensive use of pasture grounds. Instead of growing fodder to feed their herds, pastoralists usually take them to different pastures to which they have access. Seasonal mobility is a fundamental aspect of most pastoralist societies. For much of the 20th century, some authors dogmatically proclaimed that pastoralism existed in Eurasia, in various parts of the African continent, and in the sub-Arctic, but not in the Americas. They argued that the introduction of sheep to the Navajo in North America enabled some native people to become pastoralists. In 1908 Éric Boman mentioned herding communities at high altitude in Argentina and, in 1946 Bernard Mishkin remarked on herding communities in Peru, but these notices went unheeded (see Webster 1973, cited under Defining Pastoralism as a Way of Life in the Andes). These mentions acquired significance in the 1960s, when Jorge Flores Ochoa (originally publishing in Spanish) and Horst Nachtigall (originally publishing in German) challenged the view that pastoralism was absent in the Andes. In a series of influential articles, the historian John V. Murra argued that independent pastoralist communities did not exist in the pre-Hispanic past because such communities would have formed part of a greater agrarian economy. Yet the emerging ethnographic evidence suggested there were people who had been specialist herders for considerable periods of time. Researchers therefore started to question how pastoralism arose. Did it have ancient, pre-Hispanic roots, or was the phenomenon recent, postdating the 16th-century arrival of Europeans? In the 1960s, authors did not have access to the findings more recently reported by archaeologists and archaeozoologists. The theme of “production pastorale et société” drew scholars together in France to tackle social aspects of pastoralist production, and some of them turned their attention toward the Andes. By 1969 French researchers had begun to collaborate on interdisciplinary field projects undertaken with counterparts from the United States, focusing on the Ayacucho basin and the Puna de Junín in Peru. From the 1970s onward, the study of pastoralism in the Andes rapidly acquired the multi- and interdisciplinary characteristics on which the selection of publications chosen for this bibliography is based. There is still a shortage of general overviews on pastoralism in the Andes; many of the publications included here restrict their coverage to a particular region and/or to specific aspects of pastoralism. The sections are therefore organized on a thematic basis. These themes intersect, however, and are not mutually exclusive.

Defining Pastoralism as a Way of Life in the Andes

The body of literature emerging since the 1960s concentrates on the Andean region where the puna provides extensive pastures. The puna is a high-altitude plateau with steppe-like vegetation in terrain cut by valleys and bordered by volcanic peaks. It stretches from its northern limit south of Cajamarca, Peru, to just short of Jujuy, Argentina, encompassing the highlands of Bolivia and northern Chile. Rainfall is greater in the northern part of the puna, with increasing aridity toward the south, where it meets the xeric Atacama Desert. The literature emphasizes the herding of native llamas and alpacas, but other herd animals include European-introduced sheep, bovine cattle, donkeys, and mules. Blench 2001 and Lasanta 2010 provide overviews from biological and ecological standpoints defining pastoralism and grazing on a worldwide, comparative basis. The other entries listed in this section are by authors who conducted their own field research in the puna, and they are concerned with social and cultural approaches. Webster 1973 and Browman 1974, writing from social anthropological and archaeological perspectives, respectively, adopt a comparative vein, using cases from other parts of the world to demonstrate that pastoralist societies in the Andes can comfortably be considered to exemplify pastoralism. Anthropologists use qualitative social dimensions to complement the ecological aspects concerning the browsing and grazing habits of herd animals. While animals are owned by private individuals and herded by family units, rangelands are typically owned in common. Colonial and republican histories in the Andes have, however, resulted in different practices, and in some regions pasture grounds are under private ownership. Flores Ochoa 1977, Flores Ochoa 1978, Flores Ochoa 1979, Celestino-Husson 1985, Dransart 2002, and Bugallo and Tomasi 2012 all discuss the social dimensions of pastoralist societies, including concepts of ownership and herding practices. These include irrigating areas of moist vegetation (bofedales) to extend the pasturage, especially to alpacas, and the naming techniques that Quechua- and Aymara-speaking herders use to identify individual animals. The term pastoralism is a category derived from Latin, “to feed.” Pastoralists in the Andes instead talk about “caring for” their animals (uwyaña in Aymara), while Bugallo and Tomasi 2012 discusses the notion of “fondness” among Spanish-speaking pastoralists in northwestern Argentina. Note that the Spanish term trato in the title of this article to characterize human-herd animal relations has a range of meanings, including “treatment” and “pact, agreement.”

  • Blench, Roger. You Can’t Go Home Again: Pastoralism in the New Millennium. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 150. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001.

    This report considers pastoralism in different parts of the world, including the Andes, combining archaeological and anthropological evidence with development studies. The author argues that pastoral societies are driven by herd animals’ biological requirements. He classifies pastoralist systems according to species, herd management, geographical location, and ecology, arguing that present-day crises do not necessarily signal the imminent collapse of pastoralist economies because historical instances demonstrate their capacity to return.

  • Browman, David. “Pastoral Nomadism in the Andes.” Current Anthropology 15.2 (1974): 188–196.

    DOI: 10.1086/201455

    Using archaeological, historical, and ethnographic evidence, Browman argues that people adopted seminomadic pastoralism in the Jauja-Huancayo basin, Peru, from c. 7000 BP. Low temperatures and poor pastures in the puna favored the exploitation of camelids for fleece in an economy also including hunting, limited horticulture, and trade. Herders would have maintained short-term balance through seasonal dispersal to different pasture grounds. A sudden change occurred c. 550 CE with the imposition of Wari control.

  • Bugallo, Lucila, and Jorge Tomasi. “Crianzas mutuas: El trato a los animales desde las concepciones de los pastores puneños (Jujuy, Argentina).” Revista Española de Antropología Americana 42.1 (2012): 205–224.

    DOI: 10.5209/rev_REAA.2012.v42.n1.38644

    In two case studies from the neighboring highland departments of Susques and Cochinoca, in the province of Jujuy, Argentina, the authors discuss houses, corrals, and ritual structures. They consider the Spanish terms pastoralists use in their herding practices and their motivation for keeping animals. Relations between the herders and herd animals are characterized by a concept of cariño (fondness), because herders and herd animals tend for each other.

  • Celestino-Husson, Olinda. “Eleveurs aymaras des punas de Puno.” Production pastorale et société: Recherches sur l’écologie et l’anthropologie des sociétés pastorales 16 (1985): 85–94.

    Citing the work of Félix Palacios Ríos, the author describes herding technologies and social organization in Chinchillapi, Department of Puno, Peru. She explains how areas of wet pasture ground (bofedales) are extended by irrigation, how long it takes to establish these pastures, and how herders manage separate herds of male and female alpacas and of male and female llamas. Herding entails no marked difference in the sexual division of labor.

  • Dransart, Penelope Z. Earth, Water, Fleece and Fabric: An Ethnography and Archaeology of Andean Camelid Herding. London: Routledge, 2002.

    Focusing on relationships maintained between herders and camelids through the spinning of fleece in the Atacama Desert and Isluga, northern Chile, the author examines concepts of owning herd animals by juxtaposing ethnographic, historical, and archaeological evidence, tracking changes from 5000 BP to the 20th century. She examines transformations as hunter-gatherers became pastoralists, how camelids transform pasture into fleece, and how herders transform fleece into yarn and fabric.

  • Flores Ochoa, Jorge A. “Classification et dénomination des camélidés sud-américains.” Annales: Économies, sociétés, civilisations 33.5–6 (1978): 1006–1016.

    The author analyzes a classificatory system Quechua-speaking herders use to name their alpacas and llamas, demonstrating the deep relationship between humans and camelids. He considers herders’ concepts for explaining the existence of wild and domesticated camelids. The article discusses the names herders give to variation in fleece color and the different configurations of colored patches that enable herders to recognize each animal as an individual.

  • Flores Ochoa, Jorge. Pastoralists of the Andes: The Alpaca Herders of Paratía. Translated by Ralph Bolton. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1979.

    This ethnographic monograph describes life in Paratía, Department of Puno, Peru, based on fieldwork conducted in 1964 among herders of alpacas and llamas. Flores Ochoa draws attention to the emotional reliance people have on their herds and the roles given to them in religious ceremonies. Chapter 4 presents different hypotheses concerning the antiquity of camelid pastoralism in the Andes, as well as a useful characterization of pastoralism as a subsistence economy. Originally published in Spanish in 1968.

  • Flores Ochoa, Jorge, ed. Pastores de puna: Uywamichiq punarunakuna. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1977.

    This edited volume contains chapters written from multidisciplinary perspectives dedicated to the study of pastoralist communities in Peru. Topics covered include human adaptation to high-altitude environments, pastoralists’ trading relations with other communities, ritual practices, and the situation faced by pastoralists in Peru after the commencement of agrarian reform in 1969. Some contributors share their anxiety that pastoralism in the Peruvian Andes might not survive for long in the future.

  • Lasanta, Teodoro. “Pastoreo en áreas de montaña: Estrategías e impactos en el territorio.” Estudios Geográficos 71.268 (2010): 203–233.

    DOI: 10.3989/estgeogr.0459

    Starting from the observation that grazing implies that herd animals eat pasture, the author associates the extensive availability of such food sources with mountain environments. He presents an overview of different herd animals and the different types of vegetation they eat in various parts of the world. Lasanta discusses nomadic and transhumant cycles of movement as a seasonal phenomenon mirroring the movements of local wild animals.

  • Webster, Steven. “Native Pastoralism in the South Andes.” Ethnology 12.2 (1973): 115–133.

    DOI: 10.2307/3773341

    In his literature review, Webster observes that evidence for pastoralism in the Andes began to receive systematic attention in the 1960s with the work of Flores Ochoa and Nachtigall. Arguing that pastoralism in the Andes is relevant to the comparative study of pastoralist communities in other parts of the world, he uses ethnographic evidence from Q’ero, Peru, to discuss the herders’ social standing, their control over herd animals, and rituals.

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