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Title page for ETD etd-12072017-121210

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Bria, Rebecca Elizabeth
URN etd-12072017-121210
Title Ritual, Economy, and the Construction of Community at Ancient Hualcayán (Ancash, Peru)
Degree PhD
Department Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Tom D. Dillehay Committee Chair
  • Peru
  • Andes
  • economy
  • ritual
  • community
Date of Defense 2017-03-23
Availability restricted
This research investigates how communities reorganize during periods of widespread social, economic, and religious transformation. In particular, the study traces the process through which the people of Hualcayán, an ancient ritual, settlement, and agricultural complex in highland Ancash, Peru, forged a new kind of community during one of the most transformative but little understood periods in Andean prehistory: the disintegration of the Chavín religious and political network (900–500 BC) and the subsequent emergence of more localized Recuay communities and polities (AD 1–700).

The study examines this process of community formation by focusing on how people at Hualcayán reorganized their ritual and economic practices to produce new relationships to each other, local lands, and local resources. Specifically, it investigates how diverse kinds of collective labor and ritual practices—especially building, performance, food production, and ritual consumption—intersected to assemble the Hualcayán community through time.

The study reveals that the Recuay emergence was a bottom-up process of local innovation and community reorganization. A new community was built when local people formed corporate groups that were organized through the combined labor of conducting shared rituals, growing and sharing foods, and building shared spaces. Paleobotanical, artifact, and architectural evidence shows that after people decommissioned their Chavín temple, groups began to build separate spaces that were used for both ritual and agricultural processing and storage. These ritual-storage compounds were dispersed within agricultural terraces, which suggests that local people began to strongly emphasize links between their group’s ritual practices and the collective labor needed to produce food and infrastructure.

These results contribute to the anthropological study of communities. First, they reveal several how collective economic practices such as agricultural intensification supports ritual practice and vice versa. Second, they support the need to explore communities as internally diverse assemblages of people, things, and places. Finally, they reveal how both widespread social and political transformations do not occur through elite innovations alone but through changes in the everyday labor of people who work and celebrate together.

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