Cupisnique culture : the development of ideology in the ancient Andes
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Cupisnique culture was first identified by Rafael Larco Hoyle in the 1930s through his encounter with an early ceramic style in the Cupisnique Quebrada on the north coast of Peru. Since that time, the ceramic styles, region and time period to which the term ‘Cupisnique’ pertains have remained loosely defined, associated with northern Peru and the Middle Formative Period (1200-900 BCE). The interpretation of Cupisnique culture has further relied on research at the highland site of Chavín de Huántar and a presumed Chavín style horizon. Cupisnique visual materials, however, provide a rich corpus from which to advance analysis of this cultural tradition. In this dissertation, I group the chapters into two parts – background information and substantive material analyses. In Part I, I begin with a concise history of Cupisnique studies, which review permits to establish the objectives and methodology of the investigation. The latter includes archaeological and visual approaches to Cupisnique culture, as well as the geographic, environmental and ecological conditions pertinent to northern Peru. In Part II, I present the results of archaeological fieldwork at the Cumbemayo Canal, near the city of Cajamarca, Peru. Based on the field research, I examine the impact of coastal Cupisnique culture into this north highland region, and I discuss the symbolic role of monumental water management and the creation of a ritualized landscape. The intricate design of the Cumbemayo Canal segues conceptually to the exploration of a larger visual system. Based on a defined corpus of ‘Classic’ Cupisnique stirrup spout bottles, I venture a comprehensive examination of prominent themes, motifs and scenes in Cupisnique iconography. I argue that the latter comprises a reticular visual program that serves to instantiate a complex and developing ideological system. Given the common visual motifs, the tenets of this ideology consist in concepts of capture, sacrifice and fertility, interwoven through a structure of symbolic dualities. In the conclusion, I demonstrate how this proposed Cupisnique ideology conceptually fits with the development of social complexity in northern Peru through and following the Formative Period in the Andes.