Amplified fragment length polymorphism fingerprinting was applied to survey the genetic diversity of primitive South American Gossypium barbadense cotton for establishing a possible link to its pre-Columbian expansion. New germplasm was collected along coastal Peru and over an Andean transect in areas where most of the archaeological evidence relating to cotton domestication has been recorded. Gene bank material of three diploid (G. raimondii, G. arboreum, and G. herbaceum) and four allotetraploid cotton species (G. hirsutum, G. mustelinum, G. tomentosum and additional G. barbadense) was added for inter- and intra-specific comparison. Eight primer combinations yielded 340 polymorphic bands among the 131 accessions. The obtained neighbor joining and unweighted pair-group method with arithmetic means are in full agreement with the known cytogenetics of the tetraploid cottons and their diploid genome donors. The four tetraploid species are clearly distinct based on taxonomic classification. The genetic diversity within G. barbadense reveals geographic patterns. The locally maintained cottons from coastal Peru display a distinct genetic diversity that mirrors their primitive agro-morphological traits. Accessions from the northernmost coast of Peru and from southwestern (SW) Ecuador cluster basal to the east-of-Andes accessions. The remaining accessions from Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean and Pacific islands cluster with the east-of-Andes accessions. Northwestern Peru/SW Ecuador (the area flanking the Guayaquil gulf) appears to be the center of the primitive domesticated G. barbadense cotton from where it spread over the Andes and expanded into its pre-Columbian range.