The Valdivia culture is one of the earliest settled village cultures in the New World. It is famous for its characteristic pottery tradition, Venus figurines, and the early cultivation of corn in South America. While Valdivia is marked by important developments in agriculture and social organization, as a recognizable material culture it persists for some 3000 years, an extremely long-lived manifestation of cultural continuity.

The site of Buen Suceso (OSE-M-2M-4) is a Late Valdivia village dating to approximately 2000 BC. Its characteristic u-shape is typical of Valdivia village layout in earlier periods, but presents as anomalous for the Late Valdivia period. For my dissertation I built a model for the investigation of Valdivia communities that explores the temporal, spatial, and power dimensions of community processes. I identified temporalized village spatial forms, a dedicatory deposit, and decorative elements within the ceramic assemblage that indicate community processes at Buen Suceso focused on a period some 1,000 years in the Valdivia past. The selection of this period positioned the community at Buen Suceso in contrast to increasing social hierarchy at other contemporaneous sites in this region. Through a comparative analysis of ceramic assemblages from four Late Valdivia sites I highlighted differences in ceramic use and assemblage composition that point to two diverging ways of fomenting community through participation in communal eating. These differences interrupt any singular or monolithic understanding of “Valdivia social life” and instead highlight the need for locally-developed and historicized examinations of social practices.

In the future, I want to build on this work through an examination of the household contexts of community practices. In particular, my research will seek to determine whether reference to a Valdivia past was emphasized at the household level as well as at the village level. While the emphasis on the past was linked with a rejection of increasing social differentiation by the community, I will investigate if that was the case at the household level as well, and to what degree different domestic groups variably participated in or rejected systems of increasing social differentiation.

My dissertation is available for download from the University of Illinois.

Topographic map of Buen Suceso