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Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador

Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador

Terence Grieder
James D. Farmer
David V. Hill
Peter W. Stahl
Douglas H. Ubelaker
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  • Book Info
    Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador
    Book Description:

    Challuabamba (chī-wa-bamba)-now a developing suburb of Cuenca, the principal city in the southern highlands of Ecuador-has been known for a century as an ancient site that produced exceptionally fine pottery in great quantities. Suspecting that Challuabamban ceramics might provide a link between earlier, preceramic culture and later, highly developed Formative period art, Terence Grieder led an archaeological investigation of the site between 1995 and 2001. In this book, he and the team of art historians and archaeologists who excavated at Challuabamba present their findings, which establish the community's importance as a center in a network of trade and artistic influence that extended to the Amazon River basin and the Pacific Coast.

    Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador presents an extensive analysis of ceramics dating to 2100-1100 BC, along with descriptions of stamps and seals, stone and shell artifacts, burials and their offerings, human remains, and zooarchaeology. Grieder and his coauthors demonstrate that the pottery of Challuabamba fills a gap between early and late Formative styles and also has a definite connection with later highland styles in Peru. They draw on all the material remains to reconstruct the first clear picture of Challuabamba's prehistory, including agriculture and health, interregional contacts and exchange, red-banded incised ware and ceramic production, and shamanism and cosmology.

    Because southern Ecuador has received relatively little archaeological study, Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador offers important baseline data for what promises to be a key sector of the prehistoric Andean region.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79371-2
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction to the Project
    (pp. 1-26)

    Today Challuabamba (chī-wa-bamba) is a developing suburb of Cuenca, the principal city in the southern highlands of Ecuador (Figure 1.1). The old farmsteads that once composed the village are being replaced by large suburban houses, and even the Pan-American Highway along the north bank is being superseded by a new four-lane divided highway on the south bank. The bridge over the Tomebamba River, just seven kilometers downstream from the site of our excavations, is a vital link in a wide network of roads leading north to Riobamba and Quito, west to the coastal plain and Guayaquil, and south to Cuenca...

  6. 2 Pottery Wares and Forms
    (pp. 27-52)

    Ceramics have been one of the primary subjects of archaeological study in the Andean region from their Formative origin to the late spread of imperial styles. Through analysis of the geological sources of their constituent clays they can inform us of their region of origin, as David Hill tells us in his analysis of the petrology of some sherds from Challuabamba and the Chorrera region. From the technical knowledge exhibited by potters’ products we may be able to discover where they learned the craft and what their cultural connections were. The ultimate origins of ancient pottery in the Americas are...

  7. 3 Petrographic Analysis of Selected Ceramics from Two Sites in Ecuador
    (pp. 53-60)

    Nine potsherds from the excavations at Challuabamba and two reliably reported to be from a Chorrera site in the province of Los Ríos were analyzed by the author using a Nikon Optiphot-2 petrographic microscope. The sizes of the natural inclusions and tempering agents were described in terms of the Wentworth Scale, a standard method for characterizing particle sizes in sedimentology. These sizes were derived from measuring a series of grains using a graduated reticle built into one of the microscope optics. The percentages of inclusions in the ceramics and clay samples were estimated using comparative charts (Terry and Chilingar 1955;...

  8. 4 Pottery Decoration
    (pp. 61-83)

    The most important decorative effects were achieved by the firing, which dictated surface color and hardness and affected burnish and fire-clouding. While modeling, carving and incision, brushing, painting, and differential burnishing were all important, they still took second place for potters whose principal interest was in the firing. All early pottery was fired just once (since it was not glazed, unlike most modern pottery, which has a bisque firing and a glaze firing), but some pots were subjected to a second exposure to a smoky fire to deposit carbon. Red-and-Black ware is defined by this practice, but some other vessels...

  9. 5 Pottery Comparisons
    (pp. 84-96)

    While knowledge of the technical history of Ecuador and Peru in ancient times is still far from complete, it is already clear that knowledge and skills were being shared between communities over long distances. Pottery vessels and other ceramic products provide some of the best evidence of connections, or lack of connections, among these early communities. As Shepard argued (1965:347), “As a means of establishing contemporaneity, pottery has advantages over other kinds of artifacts because of the variety of its features and the richness of its development.” Pottery techniques, forms, and especially decorative styles spread rapidly, or not at all,...

  10. 6 Effigy Vessels and Figurines
    (pp. 97-110)

    When we lay out the figurines, effigy vessels, and effigy attachments to vessels according to their stratigraphic locations, it becomes apparent that certain features of form and style cluster at different stratigraphic levels. Level being in general a function of time, it follows that the clusters represent conventions accepted during certain periods. Since form and style can be defined and their conventions represent social agreements (“A work of art is a statement about the nature of reality”: Arnheim: 1964:21), we can reconstruct some of the conventions of the periods when those clusters of works were made.

    The general term “effigy”...

  11. 7 Stamps and Seals
    (pp. 111-127)

    Among the most interesting items of ceramic art at Challuabamba are the pieces bearing deeply carved designs. They are found in a variety of forms: flat stamps, large hollow circular forms which have been called “bracelets” (Uhle 1922:222) or roller stamps, which I will call cylinder seals, and other forms (Figure 7.1).

    There can be no doubt that they are local products, for their variations fall within the range of local ceramic production. Flat stamps and roller stamps (or cylinder seals) have been found at several sites in northern Peru and southern Ecuador. They “are very common items in Chorrera...

  12. 8 Stone and Shell
    (pp. 128-140)

    There is no question that the working of stone preceded the making of ceramics, but in our excavations the ancient art of stone toolmaking is very rare: two ground stone axes, one possible fragment of a small ground stone saw, a pendant with an unfinished drill hole, a few broken stones which might have been used but show no signs of wear, and no blades or pressure-flaked forms. Stone was used most often unworked, in its natural form, selected for size or color and placed in a foundation or burial. While lithic blades, bowls, and metates are found at Cotocollao...

  13. 9 The Burials and Their Offerings
    (pp. 141-158)

    Seven undisturbed burials were discovered in Cuts 2 and 3, numbered in the order of their discovery. Despite the damp climate, these seven were sufficiently complete for study; and a few bones were solid enough to extract intact. Numerous other skeletal fragments were recovered from the two cuts but were too disturbed to assign specific burial contexts.

    These seven appear to be undisturbed primary burials, damaged only by compression and moisture. They appear to have been laid in shallow graves, though the edges of the pits cannot be discerned. Accompanying the bodies in three cases were offerings of pottery, and...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 10 Human Remains
    (pp. 159-164)

    Excavations at the site of Challuabamba in the highlands of southern Ecuador produced human remains which appear to have originated from primary articulated burials in levels dated by radiocarbon between 1700 and 1400 BC. The remains have been in the custody of the National Patrimony offices in Cuenca. Those available for study were transported by Terence Grieder, who directed the excavation project, to Cautivo in coastal Ecuador to be analyzed in June 2003 by the author, assisted by Sally Graver of Ohio State University. All remains were examined and remained in the custody of Grieder. He returned all the specimens...

  16. 11 Zooarchaeology
    (pp. 165-206)

    The collection of 6,060 archaeofaunal specimens recovered from Challuabamba between 1995 and 2000 is one of the largest recorded zooarchaeological assemblages from the highlands of southern Ecuador and extreme northern Peru. This is an area in which only a handful of early sites have yielded comparable data (Figure 1.1). These include mention of archaeofaunal material at Loma Pucara (Arellano 1994), Cerro Narrío (Collier and Murra 1943), and Pacopampa (Rosas and Shady 1975:22); small samples from Catamayo (NISP [number of identified specimens] = 250; Guffroy et al. 1987: 110) and Cueva Negra de Chobshi (NISP > 258; Lynch and Pollock 1981:98);...

  17. 12 Reconstructing Challuabamba’s History
    (pp. 207-218)

    Despite having no trace of ruins on the surface, the site named for the village of Challuabamba has been a focus of study for many years and the subject of various theories on its cultural connections. This chapter considers our findings as they provide clues to the lives of its ancient population.

    Sometime before the period bracketed by our two earliest radiocarbon dates (2300–1700 BC from Cut 1 Level 4 and Cut 3 Level 4) small groups of people living in the lowlands of western Ecuador began to wander eastward into the Andean highlands. We have little direct knowledge...

  18. INDEX
    (pp. 219-222)