Study Areas

Main features of our study areas

UPWELL research focuses on three zones of the Humboldt System. Covering a coastal section of northern Chile from 18° to 32° South Latitude, we include an environmental and sociocultural mosaic of more than 2000 kilometers.

Through the study of profuse archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records, together with modern oceanographic and ecological data, we are exploring spatio-temporal convergences and divergences in the co-evolution between socio-cultural and biophysical systems of the Humboldt System during the last 12,000 years.

Arica (18°S)

Our first study area is Arica​​, located at the northernmost limit of Chile. Here, the coastal upwelling is practically null and precipitations are scarce, mostly brought by monsoonal summer rains.  Humans have been present for at least 12000 years, where the inhabitants developed subsistence strategies strongly linked to the sea.

Proof of this presence in the area is the Chinchorro culture, one of the oldest records of mummification in the world. After a long record of strong marine lifestyle, records indicate that during the last 4000 years, coastal societies implemented agriculture and domestication of animals.

Taltal-Antofagasta (25°S)

The coastal desert of Taltal and Antofagasta stands out for its extremely arid conditions, given by the total absence of rainfall and surface waters. The “aguadas” are the only fresh water sources available on the coast. Coastal upwelling presents a seasonal regime during spring-summer, and the “camanchaca” is a persistent coastal fog, crucial for the scarce loma vegetation.

Under these hyperarid conditions, marine resources are and have been, essential for human life in this area. The highly specialized marine subsistence strategies developed by the Pre-Columbian societies of this area, demonstrate the relevance of coastal and marine environments in people’s life.

Los Vilos (32°S)

The southern edge of our study area is located on the semi-arid coast of Chile, in which seasonal winter rainfall, perennial rivers, and wetland systems occur. On this marine shore, the coastal upwelling presents a semi-permanent regime, which generates strong winds and dense coastal cloudiness.

For over  12000 years of human occupation, societies from Los Vilos area maintained, until Colonial times, a subsistence strategy based on shore fishing and coastal harvesting with inland movements through canyons  and valleys.