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Seeing Prehistory in Color: Interpreting the Use of Colored Pigments at the Tiwanaku Omo Temple, Moquegua, Peru

Author(s): Paul Goldstein ; Jason Kjolsing

Year: 2015

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Although color is often at the background of our lived experience, colors also have the power to demand our attention. In this paper we explore how color was a meaningful component of the built environment in prehistoric South America and specifically the ways it demanded the attention of the Tiwanaku (AD 500-1100) of the south-central Andes. Extensive excavations at the Tiwanaku Omo ceremonial temple (M10A) in Moquegua, Peru have revealed the use of red and green pigments on selective walls and doorways throughout the structure. Using ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and archaeological data, we argue that the colors of Omo’s built environment symbolized circulating liquids and guided temple supplicants along a ceremonial procession pathway. We suggest that attention to color is an important avenue for understanding the significance of the built environment and other materials from prehistory.

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Seeing Prehistory in Color: Interpreting the Use of Colored Pigments at the Tiwanaku Omo Temple, Moquegua, Peru. Jason Kjolsing, Paul Goldstein. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397979)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

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

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America