The One River Project  (2012-2015) tracks the flux in rich cultural  florescence and collapse  through  time along a single river – the Río Ica – from its headwaters in the southern Andes to its mouth  on the desert past. Its Pacific coast is one of the world’s  driest deserts,  whose  only reliable  source  of water are rivers arising in the rain-fed  highland hinterlands. Second  only to the Himalayas, the Andes encompass tremendous variations in human  ecology,  and, at these tropical  latitudes, support  cultivation even to extreme altitudes.

Our research studies  the interdependency between the hydrology and economy of the coast and highlands taking a single watershed as our unit of analysis, modelling changes  in settlement, land use, water management and culture.  In particular we are interested in how human  populations adapted  the natural  and physical  landscape to their hydric needs.

Here we compare and contrast  human  management of land and water in the Ica Valley at two ends of extremes in time and space.  At the river’s mouth  on the Pacific shoreline we look to the first semi- sedentary fisher-hunter-gathers in the Middle  Preceramic (c. 5,000 BC).  Millennia later, then, in the river’s headwaters, between 2,800 and 4,400 m higher,  we investigate  those complex agro-pastoralist strategies for the exploitation of pasturage and construction of extensive agricultural terrace  systems which became  part of the Inca Empire  (to AD 1532).

The contrasts between these case studies  help draw out the long human  trajectory across the extraordinary Andean  topography, and how people  here constructed and deconstructed their environment based on the short- and long-term decisions taken these same groups.  In essence, we aim to understand the political ecology  of the Ica Drainage populations through  time.