Holocene variations in Lake Titicaca water level and their implications for sociopolitical developments in the central Andes

Stéphane Guédron, Christophe Delaere, Sherilyn C. Fritz, Julie Tolu, Pierre Sabatier, Anne Lise Devel, Carlos Heredia, Claire Vérin, Eduardo Q. Alves, Paul A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Holocene climate in the high tropical Andes was characterized by both gradual and abrupt changes, which disrupted the hydrological cycle and impacted landscapes and societies. High-resolution paleoenvironmental records are essential to contextualize archaeological data and to evaluate the sociopolitical response of ancient societies to environmental variability. Middle-to-Late Holocene water levels in Lake Titicaca were reevaluated through a transfer function model based on measurements of organic carbon stable isotopes, combined with high-resolution profiles of other geochemical variables and paleoshoreline indicators. Our reconstruction indicates that following a prolonged low stand during the Middle Holocene (4000 to 2400 BCE), lake level rose rapidly ~15 m by 1800 BCE, and then increased another 3 to 6 m in a series of steps, attaining the highest values after ~1600 CE. The largest lake-level increases coincided with major sociopolitical changes reported by archaeologists. In particular, at the end of the Formative Period (500 CE), a major lake-level rise inundated large shoreline areas and forced populations to migrate to higher elevation, likely contributing to the emergence of the Tiwanaku culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2215882120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume120
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 10 2023

Keywords

  • Lake Titicaca sediment
  • biomarkers
  • carbon isotopes
  • central Andes
  • societies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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