Quintessentializing the Power of Place in the Ancient Andes

Author(s): Edward Swenson

Year: 2017


The co-extension of peoples, places, and things as interdependent social actors were fundamental to Andean spatial ontologies. For instance, the "multiflex" Paria Caca of the Huarochiri Manuscript was manifested as five eggs, five falcons, five brothers, and a great mountain that still bears his name. In this paper, I argue that quintessential locales in the ancient Andes were often places where wholes and parts, microcosmos and macrocosoms, interiors and exteriors, and complementary opposites either converged or became materially differentiated. Living landscapes uniting or animating essential life-forces were thus sites of heightened semiosis entailing the intensified materialization and interchangeability of different sign modalities (Peirce’s modalities of firstness, secondness, and thirdness). Although reminiscent of traditional theories on the "center" as an axis or imago mundi, a comparison of unmodified wak’as and built landscapes in the Jequetepeque Valley of the North Coast of Peru will demonstrate considerable variation in how places were suffused with and radiated quintessential powers. This variation can partly explain historical differences in the political affordances of landforms and ceremonial architecture.

Cite this Record

Quintessentializing the Power of Place in the Ancient Andes. Edward Swenson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430905)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14768