Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Venerable geographies: Spatial dynamics, religion, and political economy in the prehistoric Lake Titicaca Basin, Bolivia
by Smith, Scott Cameron, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, 2009, 469; 3374430
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the relationship between religion and political economy during the Late Formative (200 BC–AD 500) and Tiwanaku (AD 500–1100) periods in the southern Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia. An understanding of the relationship between these two domains is crucial to elucidating the processes that underwrote the development of social complexity in the region during the Formative period and the subsequent emergence of the Tiwanaku state around AD 500. With the understanding that expressions of religion are both polyvalent and often contested, this dissertation approaches the analysis dialectically. Three domains of variability which highlight this multivocality are first isolated and examined separately before the results are reassembled into a holistic picture of religion during the Late Formative and early Tiwanaku periods. How participants would have experienced ceremony is investigated through an examination of the built environment at the Late Formative period site of Khonkho Wankane. To complement the architectural analysis spatial patterns of ceramic variability are examined to understand the character of activities and practices that occurred at Khonkho Wankane. Finally, religious beliefs are investigated through an analysis of Formative and Tiwanaku period religious iconography. This analysis uses the direct-historical approach to reconstruct some elements of meaning encoded in Formative and Tiwanaku religious icons.

Ultimately, asymmetrical social relationships emerged through a process whereby cthonic power and agency pertaining to both the material and biological reproduction of society was unmoored from the sacred landscape and partially co-opted by a group of religious specialists at Tiwanaku. The data from Khonkho Wankane indicate that this process of abstraction crucially involved the alteration of how religious participants experienced ritual. The character of religious interaction changed distinctly between the Late Formative 1 and 2 periods, becoming less based on social interaction and more based on public performance. I argue that Tiwanaku period ideology emerged through a dialectical relationship between increasing abstraction in religious belief and increasing abstraction in religious practice and experience. Religion was the fundamental element that brought people together and also the forge in which power dynamics were wrought.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ashmore, Wendy
School: University of California, Riverside
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Archaeology, Native American studies
Keywords: Architecture, Bolivia, Formative period, Iconography, Khonkho Wankane, Lake Titicaca Basin, Landscape, Tiwanaku
Publication Number: 3374430
ISBN: 978-1-109-35419-5
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