Abstract

Analysis of mollusks from archaeological sites on the north and central coasts of Peru indicates that between ca. 5800 and 3200–2800 cal yr B.P., El Niño events were less frequent than today, with modern, rapid recurrence intervals achieved only after that time. For several millennia prior to 5.8 ka, El Niño events had been absent or very different from today. The phenomena called El Niño have had severe consequences for the modern and colonial (historically recorded) inhabitants of Peru, and El Niño events also influenced prehistoric cultural development: the onset of El Niño events at 5.8 ka correlates temporally with the beginning of monumental temple construction on the Peruvian coast, and the increase in El Niño frequency after 3.2–2.8 ka correlates with the abandonment of monumental temples in the same region.

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