Early New World Monumentality

Early New World Monumentality

Early New World Monumentality

Early New World Monumentality


"Offers a number of interesting case studies of New World monumentality that expand our comparative understanding of the phenomenon."--Dean J. Saitta, University of Denver

"Brings together important essays that analyze the context, nature, and impact of early monuments in the Americas. Early New World Monumentality should be read by everyone interested in monumentality anywhere in the world."-- Michael Love, California State University

In studies of ancient civilizations, the focus is often on the temples, palaces, and buildings created and then left behind, both because they survive and because of the awe they still inspire today. From the Mississippian mounds in the United States to the early pyramids of Peru, these monuments have been well-documented, but less attention has been paid to analyzing the logistical complexity involved in their creation.

In this collection, prominent archaeologists explore the sophisticated political and logistical organizations that were required to plan and complete these architectural marvels. They discuss the long-term political, social, and military impacts these projects had on their respective civilizations, and illuminate the significance of monumentality among early complex societies in the Americas.

Early New World Monumentality is ultimately a study of labor and its mobilization, as well as the long-term spiritual awe and political organization that motivated and were enhanced by such undertakings. Mounds and other impressive monuments left behind by earlier civilizations continue to reveal their secrets, offering profound insights into the development of complex societies throughout the New World.


Robert M. Rosenswig and Richard L. Burger

Monumental construction projects have always been a conspicuous reminder of past societies and thus have long been the subject of archaeological inquiry. Culture historians have cast their interpretive net across large areas and tried to explain why monumentality diffused from one region to another (e.g., Childe 1958, 70; Ford 1969; Griffin 1952; Tello 1943). Processual archeologists later shrank the geographical scale of inquiry to study monumental works in terms of local adaptation and sociopolitical organization (e.g., Renfrew 1973; Steponitis 1978; D. Wilson 1988). Postmodern archaeologists exploring agency and practice deemed the way past peoples experienced monumentality to be most important (e.g., Barrett 1994; Bradley 1998; Tilley 1994). Clearly these perspectives are not mutually exclusive in the questions they ask. However, none specifically address the issue of how and why large construction projects began. Diffusion cannot explain how things got started in the first place. and while particular forms of social organization can facilitate large work projects, they certainly do not necessitate that such endeavors will occur. Further, while specific historical conditions and the ability to coordinate people to undertake large labor projects obviously required specific cultural knowledge, this does not explain why monumentality is such a pervasive phenomenon in early cultures all over the world.

A comprehensive analysis of early monumentality incorporates a concern with labor and its mobilization as well as the longer-term impact of spiritual awe and political organization that can be both generated and naturalized by such undertakings. the large pyramids and impressive monuments that attract attention, as well as equally large but less conspicuous . . .

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