Architectural Energetics

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

Since Elliot Abrams' seminal 1994 book "How the Maya Built their World: Energetics and Ancient Architecture," many archaeological scholars have explored architectural energetics as a methodology and lens through which to understand cultural change, political economy, construction processes, and architectural features. The scholars presenting in this session apply architectural energetics in diverse regions and support many contextual arguments that highlight both the diversity of the ancient past and commonalities of construction. In light of these distinct contextual applications, we explore energetics investigations twenty years on from Abrams' important synthesis. Further, we explore what insights these diverse studies offer for our understanding of how and why people engaged in constructing large architectural features through time and space.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • Building Charlieu: Chronology and Asset Flow over Time at Saint Fortunatus Monastery, 872-1120 C.E. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexis Jackson.

    The monastery of Saint Fortunatus in Charlieu, France, was built and rebuilt several times from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. In the twentieth century, the monastery was excavated by American archaeologist and art historian Elizabeth Sunderland, who relied heavily on its relationship to mega-monastery Cluny to reconstruct the smaller abbey’s chronology. However, re-examining Charlieu’s timing and phasing with attention to material and labor costs over time exposes an alternative chronology...

  • The Celtic community of the Heuneburg: An Energetics Approach to Their Building Activity between 600 B.C. and 540 B.C. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only François Remise.

    During the first Iron Age, between 600 B.C. and 540 B.C., the ruling elite of the Celtic community at Heuneburg in Southern Germany erected monumental buildings, mainly mud-brick fortifications and funeral mounds. The costs and efforts involved in the construction of these buildings have been estimated using the science of energetics. This study analyses the energy effort involved in the construction, preferentially on the basis of energy values which would have applied in the historical and...

  • Formulating an Energetics Assessment of the Moundville Landscape (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cameron Lacquement.

    Platform mound building is a key indicator of sociopolitical complexity in the southeastern United States. In this presentation, the human energy employed in earthen monumental construction at the Moundville polity in west-central Alabama is quantified as a means of exploring the organizational variability of the control of surplus labor and material resources in an emerging complex society. To reconstruct the scale of sociopolitical differentiation invested in mound building, the energy...

  • Maya Monumental Energetics (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leah McCurdy.

    Inspired by the important development of architectural energetics methodologies in Maya studies, I explore current research concerning monumental construction practices and labor at the ancient Maya site of Xunantunich, Belize. I discuss the foundational energetics principles applied to the major acropolis of Xunantunich, known as the Castillo, and highlight how virtual reconstruction plays a role in developing such energetics studies. Most importantly, I discuss how the scale of monumentality...

  • Monuments for the Living, Monuments for the Dead: A Stone-by-Stone Guide to Mycenaean State Formation (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rodney Fitzsimons.

    Prior to the appearance of the first palaces at Mycenae in the 15th century B.C., the most impressive architectural manifestation of elite authority in the Argolid was not the palace or the house, but rather the tomb, specifically the shaft grave and the tholos tomb. While the funerary data supplied by these burials have long served as the primary means by which the study of Early Mycenaean state formation has been approached, such studies focus almost exclusively on the grave goods themselves,...

  • Pharaonic Power and Architectural Labor Investment at the Karnak Temple Complex, Egypt (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Drennan.

    Labor investment studies, based on the notion that the energy of people is quantifiable, give an invaluable and unique insight into the architectural pursuits of past societies. This labor study of ancient Egypt provides a better understanding of authority among Egyptian pharaohs as represented by their legacy of monumental architecture. A site of profound importance to Egyptian society was the Karnak Temple Complex, specifically the precinct of Amun, which was aggrandized by pharaonic...

  • Urban Construction as a Social Transformation Process (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Liye Xie.

    Archaeological evidence and ancient Chinese text imply that the construction of early urban settlements in China were planned events initiated by rulers relocating their settlements in order to legitimize their arising power and establish hierarchical social systems. Accordingly, the construction of the urban settlements may have been the transformative social environments in which power was legitimized and enacted and new social structure was created. I hypothesize that whether this...

  • Use of Raw Energy Data in the Estimation of the 'Cost' of Building Iron Age Brochs in Scotland (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Barber.

    Iron Age brochs, drystone-built towers unique to Scotland, are typically 18m in external diameter, 9m internally, and 12m to 14m high. Calculation of the volume of stone required for the construction is relatively simple. Calculation of its standard bulk density, only marginally more difficult so that the mass of stone involved can be calculated with confidence. The calculation of the number of kWhs of energy required to quarry, lift move, horizontally and vertically and place into the monument...