Identity and Power in the Ancient Andes: Tiwanaku Cities through Time

Identity and Power in the Ancient Andes: Tiwanaku Cities through Time

Identity and Power in the Ancient Andes: Tiwanaku Cities through Time

Identity and Power in the Ancient Andes: Tiwanaku Cities through Time

Synopsis

The Tiwanaku state was the political and cultural center of ancient Andean civilization for almost 700 years. Identity and Power is the result of ten years of research that has revealed significant new data. Janusek explores the origins, development, and collapse of this ancient state through the lenses of social identities--gender, ethnicity, occupation, for example--and power relations. He combines recent developments in social theory with the archaeological record to create a fascinating and theoretically informed exploration of the history of this important civilization.

Excerpt

Identity and power are critical elements of social relations in all human cultures, and at last they are increasingly subjects of archaeological inquiry. While nonmaterial and relatively abstract, they are, as anthropology demonstrates on a global scale, deeply inscribed in material culture, built environments, and anthropogenic landscapes.

I strive to develop an approach to relations of identity and power and their significance in the rise and fall of archaic states. I focus on Tiwanaku, paying special attention to changing local residential patterns and ritual practices in its two primary cities. Although attention to local livelihoods is still subdominant in the study of past societies, it is critical for understanding the unwritten principles and practical relations involved in the creation, use, significance, and modification of material assemblages and built landscapes. The Andean region offers a particularly intriguing and little studied account of shifting relations of identity and power over the long term.

Tiwanaku, one of the most provocative sites in the high Andes, is an enduring mystery. Situated in the high altiplano near the southern edge of Lake Titicaca, Tiwanaku fascinated an early Spanish chronicler named Pedro Cieza de Leon, just as it continues to fascinate travelers and archaeologists today. Cieza, the young “Chronicler of the Indies, ” visited the ruins in 1549 and wrote their first known description. Cieza wrote of the ruins, “I would say that I consider this the oldest antiquity in” the Andes (1959:283-284). His account goes on,

Tihuanacu [sic] is not a very large town, but it is famous for its great buildings which, without question, are a remarkable thing to behold.

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