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The Archaeology of Wak'as

The Archaeology of Wak'as: Explorations of the Sacred in the Pre-Columbian Andes

edited by Tamara L. Bray
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Archaeology of Wak'as
    Book Description:

    In this edited volume, Andean wak'as-idols, statues, sacred places, images, and oratories-play a central role in understanding Andean social philosophies, cosmologies, materialities, temporalities, and constructions of personhood. Top Andean scholars from a variety of disciplines cross regional, theoretical, and material boundaries in their chapters, offering innovative methods and theoretical frameworks for interpreting the cultural particulars of Andean ontologies and notions of the sacred.

    Wak'as were understood as agentive, nonhuman persons within many Andean communities and were fundamental to conceptions of place, alimentation, fertility, identity, and memory and the political construction of ecology and life cycles. The ethnohistoric record indicates that wak'as were thought to speak, hear, and communicate, both among themselves and with humans. In their capacity as nonhuman persons, they shared familial relations with members of the community, for instance, young women were wed to local wak'as made of stone and wak'as had sons and daughters who were identified as the mummified remains of the community's revered ancestors.

    Integrating linguistic, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and archaeological data,The Archaeology of Wak'asadvances our understanding of the nature and culture of wak'as and contributes to the larger theoretical discussions on the meaning and role of-"the sacred" in ancient contexts.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-318-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Part I. Introduction

    • 1 Andean Wak’as and Alternative Configurations of Persons, Power, and Things
      (pp. 3-20)
      Tamara L. Bray

      In contrast to the plethora of archaeological studies focused on presumably secular aspects of society like subsistence practices, the economy, and political organization, investigations into the realm of the sacred have been much less common. This is not to suggest that all peoples past and present compartmentalize the sacred and secular in the way we tend to do in the West (e.g., Brück 1999; Fowles 2013). Rather, it is acknowledgment of the fact that archaeologists have tended to steer clear of anything beyond the quotidian material concerns of human societies. Yet today, a decade and a half into the twenty-first...

  6. Part II. Contemporary Orientations

    • 2 The Whole World Is Watching: New Perspectives on Andean Animism
      (pp. 23-46)
      Catherine J. Allen

      What was awak’a?The word is central to our understanding of Inka culture. In colonial sources,wak’a(alsoguaca, huaca) referred to powerful places or to powerful objects like mummies or statues that were kept in these places. Inka society was organized in terms of wak’as situated on lines (ceques) radiating from the capital. Documentary sources also tell us that for native Andeans, encounters with wak’as were powerfully transformative experiences (which is why “extirpators of idolatries” were so intent on rooting them out). The mestizo chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega provided an interesting insight into wak’as when he noted...

    • 3 Wak’as: Entifications of the Andean Sacred
      (pp. 47-72)
      Bruce Mannheim and Guillermo Salas Carreño

      What is, or what was, awak’a?If you ask the question that way, you already assume a certain kind of answer, one in which a wak’a is a substance. But the assumption, which tends to characterize much anthropological treatment of “wak’a” today, is not innocent. It belongs to a specific ontology of the sacred—a Christian rather than an indigenous Andean one—and has a specific history. It is also the wrong kind of question to ask because it is posed as top-down, as if archetypes of Andean wak’as, of Andean sacrality, and of the nature of agency in...

  7. Part III. Wak’as in the Time of the Inkas

    • 4 What Is a Wak’a? When Is a Wak’a?
      (pp. 75-126)
      Zachary J. Chase

      Perhaps no aspect of indigenous Andean life vexed colonial Spanish clerics as severely or in as many ways aswak’as.Spanish clergy and other state actors grasped at wak’as, attempting to apprehend them both intellectually and physically. However, with few exceptions, the chauvinism informing the eradication of non-Christian cult among Indians constrained the parameters of these exploratory endeavors, which focused primarily on inquiring about, defining, describing, explaining, and uncovering wak’as as a means to destroying them (Duviols 1977, 1986, 2003; García Cabrera 1994; Griffiths 1996; Huertas Vallejos 1981; Mills 1997; Ramos and Urbano 1993; Silverblatt 1987). The present volume provides...

    • 5 Pachacamac—Old Wak’a or Inka Syncretic Deity? Imperial Transformation of the Sacred Landscape in the Lower Ychsma (Lurín) Valley
      (pp. 127-166)
      Krzysztof Makowski

      The Spanish chroniclers referred to the Lurín Valley by several names, including Ychsma or Irma, both Spanish transcriptions of an Aymara word, and Pachacamac, which is a Quechua word. This south-central coastal valley is one of the relatively few regions in Peru where it is possible to study across the boundaries of protohistoric and colonial period archaeology. The number of written sources pertaining to this region is relatively large, and many were published during the sixteenth century by the first Spanish conquerors and priests (Eeckhout 1999b; Rostworowski 1972, 1999, 2002a, 2002b; Salomon et al. 2009; Spalding 1984). However, what may...

    • 6 Of Blood and Soil: Tombs, Wak’as, and the Naturalization of Social Difference in the Inka Heartland
      (pp. 167-212)
      Steve Kosiba

      According to Inka legend, the world was forever changed when their ancestors ascended the craggy peak of Wanakauri, their gaze falling for the first time on the valley of Cuzco. From atop this summit, the ancestral Inkas first performed the dramatic acts that would later characterize their imperial supremacy. One of them used his sling to level mountains and gouge out valleys in a feat of creative destruction that led his siblings to bury him alive in a nearby cave. Another joined his body to a local wak’a—a personified and hallowed place.¹ By embedding his flesh in these soils,...

    • 7 Men Who Would Be Rocks: The Inka Wank’a
      (pp. 213-238)
      Carolyn Dean

      Indigenous people of the Andes characterize mountain lords as the owners of all natural resources within their ranges of vision.Nevados,or glaciated peaks, are commonly referred to as “great watchers” (Allen 1988:41). The authority of these peaks relates to their ranges of vision; thus, if you can see a mountain—and it can see you—you stand in its realm. Contemporary reverence for mountains and the belief that sentient mountains exercise their authority through vision date from the prehispanic period.¹ Related in ancient times to mountains as “watchful owners,” only on a smaller scale, werewank’a(also spelledhuanca).²...

    • 8 The Importance of Being Inka: Ushnu Platforms and Their Place in the Andean Landscape
      (pp. 239-264)
      Frank M. Meddens

      The Inka structures identified asushnuplatforms represent one material form ofwak’a.The role of these features links to the need of the imperial Inka state to project power across its territory in a manner that would have been instantly recognizable to subject groups. The ushnu complex demonstrated Cuzco’s dominance over regional deities and expressed to non-Inka peoples their place within the imperially constructed cosmology. This paper seeks to show how the Inkas took a signature architectural form and charged it with religious and political meaning. This facilitated its use in the co-opting and subjugating of local deities, bringing...

    • 9 Ordering the Sacred and Recreating Cuzco
      (pp. 265-292)
      Colin McEwan

      In this chapter I consider the role of two distinct types of portable objects employed by the Inka state in the course of projecting its imperial ambitions and affirming control over conquered territories. I will argue that these kinds of objects assumed great cogency within the Inka religious universe and constitute a special category of Inkawak’a.Each is discussed with reference to particular archaeological contexts in which tripartite ordering is apparent in the material assemblages (cf., e.g., Lechtman 2007:314–27).

      The first type consists of portable objects fashioned in stone—not the familiar smallconopasandillassculpted in...

  8. Part IV. Deeper Histories of Wak’as in the Andean Past

    • 10 The Shape of Things to Come: The Genesis of Wari Wak’as
      (pp. 295-334)
      Anita G. Cook

      Lindsay Jones studies the comparative history of religions and how the sacred is expressed in architecture. He is also a Mesoamericanist, so he shares concerns that preoccupy Americanists in general, not least of which are the obstacles we face in the analysis of a material world that was created and perceived within largely nonliterary contexts and from perspectives that fundamentally differ from those of the West. In the Andes we have a wealth of architectural remains and a remarkably rich archaeological record despite the fact that we lack precolonial written documents. While different perspectives on the Andes are provided by...

    • 11 Of Monoliths and Men: Human-Lithic Encounters and the Production of an Animistic Ecology at Khonkho Wankane
      (pp. 335-366)
      John W. Janusek

      In 2002 I participated in an austral winter solstice ritual at Qhunqhu Liqiliqi, a community in Jesus de Machaca that is home to the archaeological site of Khonkho Wankane, where I was directing archaeological research. This solstice ritual is a relatively recent event that was first held at the nearby site of Tiwanaku at the end of the 1980s (Sammels 2012) and is now enacted at multiple altiplano locales considered to have a preeminent precolonial past. Each local event is unique, but Qhunqhu community members are clear that theirs is “authentic”—the true “Aymara New Year” or Machac Mara (Figure...

  9. Part V. Concluding Thoughts

    • 12 Final Reflections: Catequil as One Wak’a among Many
      (pp. 369-396)
      John R. Topic

      The chapters in this volume all focus onwak’a—a concept that is hard to define but crucial to understanding Andean ideas of relationality and causality. Although part of our understanding of wak’a comes from colonial attempts to extirpate Andean “religion” and “idolatry,” these words do not allow a precise understanding of the nature of wak’a. Even the Spanish extirpators frequently resorted to the indigenous termguacaorhuacato describe what they were trying to eradicate. The words “god” or “deity” imply a western dichotomization between the sacred and secular that also obscures the nature of wak’a (see Janusek,...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 397-398)
  11. Index
    (pp. 399-404)