also called  Atacameño, or Cunza,  

      extinct South American Indian culture of the Andean desert oases of northern Chile and northwestern Argentina. The last surviving groups of the Atacama have been assimilated by Spanish and Aymara culture.

      In their widely scattered settlements the Atacama cultivated crops such as corn (maize), beans, quinoa, and squash with the aid of irrigation. They herded llama and alpaca and traded extensively between the coast and the interior, as well as with the neighbouring Diaguita and Peruvian Indians.

      The arid climate limited settlements to small and isolated oases. Each village was autonomous, made up of a group of related families under a chief. Villages were usually located on high ground, surrounded by defensive walls. The houses were built of stone and arranged along streets. Archaeological evidence shows that warfare was prevalent among the Atacama.

      The language of the Atacama was called Cunza, or Lincan Antai, of which a vocabulary of about 1,100 words has been recorded.

 región, northern Chile. It is bounded on the east by Argentina and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Created as a province in 1843 and as a región in 1974, it includes Chañaral, Copiapó, and Huasco provincias and San Félix and San Ambrosio islands, which lie in the Pacific about 500 miles (800 km) west of Chañaral, the main port. The Atacama Desert covers much of the región. North of Copiapó (q.v.), the capital, a longitudinal valley lies between the coastal range and Andean volcanoes. South of Copiapó a complex series of intermontane basins is overshadowed by towering, snowcapped Andean peaks to the east. Desert climate prevails throughout, and although some meteorological stations have never recorded a drop of rain, some rain falls in the south. Marine terraces and the Copiapó and Huasco river valleys are irrigated for the cultivation of fruits, olives, and alfalfa. Since the 18th century, however, gold, silver, copper, and iron mining, successively, have been the primary economic activities of Atacama. Communications are mainly north-south with the Pan-American Highway and a railroad running the length of the región. Area 29,179 square miles (75,573 square km). Pop. (1994 est.) 202,259.

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Universalium. 2010.

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