Examination of ancient Peruvian sites challenges current theories

November 27, 2002

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Sites once occupied by the ancient people who created some of the pre-Columbian world's most exquisite art, largest ground drawings, most ingenious hydraulic engineering and most intense "trophy hunting" of human heads, are identified and explored in a new book.

In her book, the first extended study of the ancient Nasca sites in what today is southern Peru, Helaine Silverman combines field research with postmodernist theory to illuminate the Nasca people's "social construction of space and cultural meaning" through their manipulation of natural settings and creation of built environments. Throughout, she challenges current anthropological theories and practices.

"Rather than interpreting settlement patterns solely as reflections of political decision-making and economic organization, I add a necessary social dimension to consider the meaning of space across multiple domains of ancient society," said Silverman, author of "Ancient Nasca Settlement and Society" (University of Iowa Press).

Silverman, a professor of archaeology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has devoted 20 years to surveying and studying the Nasca. She is widely regarded as one of the world's preeminent authorities on the Nasca.

Nasca culture rose and fell between approximately 100 B.C. and 700 A.D. Its origins on the south coast continue to be debated, Silverman said, and its demise is "somehow related to the rise of Wari, a strong highland state east of the Nasca region, to a major drought or droughts in the sixth century A.D., and possibly to heightened competition among local chiefs within local Nasca society."

While data-rich, the major contribution of the book is theoretical and methodological. In essence, the author argues that her fellow professionals "cannot mechanistically apply the principle of settlement pattern hierarchy to ancient societies because ancient people 'constructed' social space under premises not necessarily amenable to western rational organization."

"Thus, in doing a site survey to look for ancient sites, archaeologists may well miss recognizing the most important features on the ancient landscape because such places may not be the largest sites."

For example, she said that in the case of ancient Nasca people, it is likely that particular mountains and springs were sacred. But in the absence of architectural "elaborations," such places might be missed in archaeological analysis. Similarly, small habitation sites might have been important in the local ranking of chiefs because they may have had a special history or mythology.

The new book is meant to be read with "The Nasca" (2002), which Silverman co-wrote with Donald A. Proulx. In it, the authors explore many theories regarding the intriguing and immense Nasca lines. Silverman argues that they were pilgrimage routes that were ritually walked, and also "arenas of performance." This year, she has written five published books on ancient Peru and two major articles.
-end-
-ael-

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Space Articles from Brightsurf:

Space to grow, or grow in space -- how vertical farms could be ready to take-off
Vertical farms with their soil-free, computer-controlled environments may sound like sci-fi.

Space lettuce
Astronauts have now managed to grow lettuce inside specially designed chambers on the International Space Station.

A filament fit for space -- silk is proven to thrive in outer space temperatures
Scientists from the universities of Oxford, Shanghai and Beijing who discovered that natural silks get stronger the colder they get, have finally solved the puzzle of why.

Detecting bacteria in space
A new genomic approach provides a glimpse into the diverse bacterial ecosystem on the International Space Station.

Grease in space
The galaxy is rich in grease-like molecules, according to an Australian-Turkish team.

Surgery in space
With renewed public interest in manned space exploration comes the potential need to diagnose and treat medical issues encountered by future space travelers.

Viruses are everywhere, maybe even in space
Viruses are the most abundant and one of the least understood biological entities on Earth.

Space program should focus on Mars, says editor of New Space
The US space exploration program should continue to focus on robotic sample recovery and human missions to Mars, says Scott Hubbard, Editor-in-Chief of New Space.

Fireworks in space
Some of the most exciting things that we've seen from looking at gene expression in space is that we really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space.

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather
NASA's Van Allen Probes have observed a new population of space sound waves, called plasmaspheric hiss, which are important in removing high-energy particles from around Earth that can damage satellites.

Read More: Space News and Space Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.