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Central Andes Kotosh Religious Tradition, Third Millennium BCE: Hearth Designs as Andean Portals between Worlds

Author(s): Mary Louise Stone

Year: 2017

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On top of Caral Peru’s amphitheater mound, an entry passageway opens to an inner sanctum—tiered benches surrounding a sunken floor and a central ceremonial hearth. This concentric design recessed into the earth repeats in diverse ways throughout third millennium BCE Kotosh Religious Tradition temples in the central Andes. Whence the concentric sunken design and hearth? I propose the hearth functioned as Andean portals for communication with unseen worlds, giving offerings, remembering ancestors. Details of archaeologists’ findings in smaller mountain communities—one-room temples, offerings, and burial relics—complement Caral temple hearths amidst stairs and entries, art and carvings. For long-term context, archaeologists noted varied and widespread sunken court designs through five millennia, and Spanish colonizers recorded portal sites for the unseen world. Today the design continues to be used in ancestral sunken courts, offering openings, and ritual fires of Lake Titicaca communities. This proposed model sheds light on central concerns of the earliest complex society of the Americas, a regional scale society where archaeologists noted that social cohesion was created through religion not war, a society that endured a millennium and provided the foundations of major Andean prehistoric societies. This model would correspond with the long-lived Andean worldviews of cyclic life/death/rebirth and communication with ancestors.

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Central Andes Kotosh Religious Tradition, Third Millennium BCE: Hearth Designs as Andean Portals between Worlds. Mary Louise Stone. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429314)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16274

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