Sociopolitical and Geomorphologic Dynamics at Chavín de Huántar, Peru
The research presented here links questions of human-environment interaction and emergent sociopolitical complexity in the context of the Central Andean Formative Period, at the early monumental center of Chavín de Huántar.
Recent work in the monumental core of Chavín has focused more on architecture than environment, leading to the development of a model of “built authority” at Chavín—a vision of monumental construction and ritual practice at the site as part of a carefully designed elite project of naturalizing social inequality and elite authority. My work links this local approach to sociopolitical dynamics at Chavín with broad-based approaches to Andean human-environment dynamics, suggesting that interaction with and informed manipulation of the local environment formed a key part of the legitimation and institutionalization of sociopolitical inequality at Chavín.
Such a perspective has come out of archaeological and geomorphologic work at and around Chavín, focused as much on the near periphery of the site as on the monumental core. That investigation leads me to argue that a significant part of the monumental project at Chavín consisted of the modification of the surrounding landscape. This, in turn, leads to a consideration of the nature of the monumental center itself, and the role of environmental engineering in Chavín’s changing sociopolitical setting. What did it mean, I ask here, to build and maintain a ceremonial center in the midst of a dynamic—and risky—environment?
The landscape itself, as well as the architecture within it, was apparently an important medium of communication, whether the target of that communication was elites, commoners, or supernaturals (or all of those simultaneously). The abundance of evidence demonstrating that the project of monument- and authority-building at Chavín included massive modification of the local landscape testifies to the fact that Chavín’s builders understood the landscape as an important component of their project. Moreover, the activity of that landscape itself—the geomorphic processes common to the valley—also apparently played an important role, providing a visible reminder of (super)natural power and a motivator for coordinated action.
Daniel A. Contreras. "Sociopolitical and Geomorphologic Dynamics at Chavín de Huántar, Peru" 2007
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/daniel_contreras/2