Life, land and labour at Yayno (AD 400-800), a Recuay fort in the north highlands of Peru

Author(s): George Lau

Year: 2015


This presentation examines the domain of work as part of the social life of fortified settlements. In particular, it is interested in the gargantuan commitment – physical and symbolic – evidenced in defensive architecture. Using data from Yayno, a large mountaintop citadel in the north highlands of Peru (Recuay culture, AD 200-700), work estimates are presented to demonstrate the great labour expenditure in its stonemasonry constructions. Builders combined massive stone blocks (local granites, imported limestones) to construct fortifications and defensible, multistorey residential compounds. The buildings ranged from small to monumental, and from low quality to extremely fine quality construction. The variability is attributable to changing construction styles by phase, defensive strategy, differential labour access and social inequalities. The paper concludes that making walls was indispensable work in the high Andes, both in terms of sheer effort and in terms of embodying group cooperation at different scales. While the compounds cloistered internal groups (segregating competing factions within Yayno), there was also a larger project of protecting the overall settlement that demanded intersubjective work, but located in a greater notion of collectivity. Aptly, then, the labour of defensive walls was to build subjects and community.

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Cite this Record

Life, land and labour at Yayno (AD 400-800), a Recuay fort in the north highlands of Peru. George Lau. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396199)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;