Of fire and water : an archaeology of social life in the valley of volcanoes, southern Peruvian Andes




Menaker, Alexander Gabriel

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This research examines the archaeological formation of social life in the Andagua Valley in the southern Peruvian Andes over the longue-durée from the emergence of local sedentism to the ethnographic present. Composed of lava flows and an anthropogenic landscape (terraces and canals), the Andagua valley offers a unique setting for the comparative study of how states and empires are epistemic regimes that seek to create particular subjects through varying material and discursive techniques and strategies. This dissertation brings into relief the limits of state projects and universal history by articulating an archaeology of llaqtas (village sites), which approaches social life through a relational history of human activities across the landscape. Investigating how people form relationships with each other and the landscape during non-state and state contexts, this framework allows for understanding the emergence of regional identities through the production of places that give order to the world. This dissertation is based on foundational research carried out by the Proyecto Arqueológico del Valle de Andagua (PAVA) that documented and analyzed all archaeological sites and artifacts in the Andagua Valley. This project marks the first systematic archaeological research of the valley, involving full coverage pedestrian regional survey (area of 45km²), 10 excavation test-pits (1x1m and 2x2m units) at six archaeological sites, aerial site mapping and comprehensive material analyses. In total the project recovered more than 17,000 artifacts across a range of occupational histories. Analyzing the contexts and distribution of ceramic artifacts, monoliths, stone discs and tablets as well as site organization, architecture and mortuary features provides insight into the production of meaning and authority across time and space. In addition to archaeological methods, this dissertation incorporates archival records chronicling the latest known case of ancestor veneration and mummy worshipping in the mid-18th century as well as oral histories, including an account involving a battle waged by regional volcanoes against an interloping Inka. Through a community engaged project, the dissertation elucidates the dynamic histories of human survival in Andagua and turns towards reckoning with forms of state coercion and violence that impose universal ideals at the expense of local difference



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