The number of paleoprecipitation records from the South American Monsoon domain that cover the last millennium has increased substantially in past years. However, hitherto most studies focused only on regional aspects, thereby neglecting the role of large-scale monsoon variability and the mechanisms that link proxy locations in space and time. Here we decompose the South American Monsoon into its main modes of variability by applying a Monte Carlo principal component analysis to a compilation of 11 well-dated summer paleoprecipitation records from tropical South America. The first mode represents changes in precipitation over the core monsoon domain, while the second mode is characterized by high loadings along the fringes of the South American Monsoon over Southeastern South America and the northern monsoon limit. Composite analysis reveals an enhanced monsoon with a wider, rather than a southward displaced, South Atlantic Convergence Zone during the early Little Ice Age, in contrast to previous interpretations. ©2019. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.