New Research into Religious Practices Supporting Inca Authority of Cuzco

Huanacauri (S. Kosiba)
Dr. Steve Kosiba & his archaeology crew in the Peruvian Andes
Dr. Steve Kosiba & his archaeology crew in the Peruvian Andes
Huanacauri ruins & Cuzco (S. Kosiba)
Huanacauri ruins & Cuzco (S. Kosiba)

Archaeologist Dr. Steve Kosiba was especially busy throughout the spring and summer 2014. Dr. Kosiba started a new archaeological project at Huanacauri, one of the earliest and most important religious complexes of the Inca Empire. The research received funding from the National Geographic Society, the Brennan Foundation, and the University of Alabama. The goal of the research was to understand the religious practices that first supported Inca regional authority in Cuzco, their sacred capital city. Perched on a 4,120m summit overlooking Cuzco, Huanacauri was essential to Inca ceremonies and beliefs. According to legend, one of the first Incas became a god at Huanacauri. Here, in ceremonies held during the height of Inca rule, young boys became elites and Inca emperors affirmed their rule (2, 12, 22). Preliminary research, however, indicates that this site was established long before Inca ascendancy (11). In light of these findings, Kosiba directed intensive archaeological excavations to test whether the Incas adopted, transformed, or invented traditional ritual practices as they converted this mountaintop into an emblem of their authority.

Cold morning (S. Kosiba)
Cold morning (S. Kosiba)

The excavations offered an unprecedented glimpse of the ritual practices through which the Incas established their divine authority in Cuzco. Kosiba and the excavation team—including Katherine Lazzara, a UA Anthropology graduate student—assiduously worked on the mountaintop, enduring frigid conditions, hail, blistering sun, and high winds to recover and document the remains of this important Inca shrine. In particular, they uncovered intact buildings that were used for corn beer (chicha) production, suggesting that alcohol and intoxication were essential to the most solemn and sacred Inca rituals. In essence, they may have discovered the highest and holiest brewery in the indigenous Americas! What is more, the excavations demonstrated that Huanacauri was most likely built long after the Incas consolidated their state in Cuzco, overturning theories which hold that the Incas grounded their religion of mountaintop shrine worship in earlier cultural traditions. Finally, the excavations revealed that the Incas destroyed and interred the shrines of Huanacauri as they relinquished their power in the face of Spanish conquest in 1532 AD. The project is now conducting a comprehensive analysis of the materials, soils, and building materials from Huanacuari.

Hanacauri & Cuzco (S. Kosiba)
Huanacauri & Cuzco (S. Kosiba)

In addition to the fieldwork, Dr. Kosiba also presented his research to academic and public audiences on a “world tour” of lectures in Baton Rouge, LA (Louisiana State University); Providence, RI (Brown University); Stuttgart, Germany (Linden Museum); Austin, TX (Meetings of the Society for American Archaeology); Leipzig, Germany (Max Planck Institute); Lima, Peru (Proyecto Qhapaq Ñan and Ministerio de Cultura); and Pisac, Peru (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru). In these talks, Kosiba presented archaeological, ethnohistorical, and Geographic Information Systems data to offer insights into how indigenous American perceptions of history and nature. Many of the lectures focused on how the Incas came to know and understand their past when they walked ritual pathways on which they encountered and communicated with mythological beings and culture heroes embedded in the stones and shrines of Cuzco.

Fall 2014 FABBL #3: On the Mississippi Mound Trail

Photo by C. Madeiros
Jessica Kowalski presented FABBL #3. Photo by C. Madeiros.

Our third FABBL of the Fall 2014 semester occurred on October 10 with Jessica Kowalski’s presentation “On the Mississippi Mound Trail: A Report on Two Field Seasons of Excavations.”

Jessica discussed her work under the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which contracted three different universities to perform excavations over two summers for a public highway project, with the intent of building tourist signs. Her particular area included 9 sites with 14 mounds over 13 weeks of field work. The historical period covered ca. 1200-1500 AD; and her presentation focused on research issues, political economy, mortuary practices, and changes in iconography during this period. The largest problem encountered during field work was how to formulate a research design for testing about 30 mound sites.

Their design looked at the project goals, time, and resources to determine chronology and construction techniques. The methods included LiDAR, mapping with GPS, exploratory testing through split spoon cores and bucket augers, and test unit excavation. The methods were updated slightly during the second season. Jessica then presented some sites that worked well with these methods, and some that yielded disappointing results with these methods, before focusing on the site that is the main focus of her dissertation research. The overall project yielded a chronology for dating mounds: Coles Creek Settlement 900-1200 AD, Winterville phase ca. 1200 AD, Late George Phase ca. 1400 AD. The Late George Phase sees a mound building explosion.

Jessica’s dissertation research focuses on Arcola, which has 3 of the 6 original mounds still standing. The first season encountered some problems relating to identification. They cored and augured Mound A, and excavated a test unit in which they found mound erosion, Late George phase and Protohistoric ceramics, and Winterville phase ceramics. During the second season they excavated Mound C, with a cut face on the summit. They found a burn floor surface and radiocarbon dated it to between 1435 and 1490 AD. Mound C has the potential for intact mound surfaces, and is a Late George phase site. During the presentation, she also discussed how to date a mound, including problems with balanced testing of mound fill and finding surfaces and the differences in the materials mounds are built on. Mississippi mounds are built of levee silts and sands for expedience, while Coles Creek mounds had a core and finish – the focus is on whether the mounds are built up or out and the sociopolitical implications of how the mounds were built. Jessica plans to continue research within the Arcola site.

Fall 2014 FABBL #1: Preliminary Results from Mound P Excavations

The Department’s Friday Afternoon Brown Bag Lunch (FABBL) talks commenced this semester on September 12 with Erik Porth’s presentation: “Some Preliminary Results from the 2012 Fall Field School Mound P Excavations.”

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Erik Porth presenting FABBL #1. Photo by C. Lynn

Erik started the presentation with an overview of Moundville’s ceramic chronology and archaeological phases, then focused on Late Moundville (post-1450 AD) excavations at Mound P. The Late Moundville period is of particular interest because of the archaeological evidence it exhibits and lacks. Excavations at Mound P have provided the first assemblage from the entirety of the Moundville III phase, 1400-1520 AD.

Erik then presented the questions that this assemblage may be able to address: Why do the symbols change or stay the same? Does mound construction really halt during Moundville III? Do they stop producing ceremonial bottles? Is there a shift in non-local exchange networks, or do they disintegrate? And, what changes occurred with ceremonial object production and consumption?

Erik also provided an overview of the excavations of Mound P, starting with CB Moore in 1905 and ending with the latest excavations during the Fall Field School in 2012 overseen by Erik and Dr. John Blitz. It is the largest mound on the western plaza periphery, is one of the latest occupied mounds, and is not fully understood yet. The goals set forth for the 2012 Fall Field School were: to mitigate the impact of the new staircase connecting a viewing platform on Mound P to the Museum, to determine the location of midden deposits and recovery of representative artifact samples from Moundville III, and to understand the timing of mound deposits and construction phases.

2014-09-12 12.17.53
Photo by C. Lynn

Some of Erik’s preliminary results include identification of several different ceramics found at the west flank trench and an analysis of the bucket auger assemblages. He wrapped up the talk with the goals for his research, which were to locate and date mound midden deposits and to assess the building sequence of mound layers, and how he plans to compare the Mound P assemblage with the current phase system expectations for Moundville III. Erik’s presentation was a great start to our FABBL series this semester!

2013 Field Season at Actuncan, Belize

Figure 4: Four eccentrics from Structure 26.
Figure 1: The 2013 Crew of the Actuncan Archaeological Project
Figure 1: The 2013 Crew of the Actuncan Archaeological Project

The Actuncan Archaeological Project directed by Dr. Lisa LeCount conducted summer excavations funded by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration at the ancient Maya site of Actuncan in Belize, Central America.  Using the corporate-network leadership model, the Project evaluated material and symbolic resources found in two elite households and an E-Group (a commemorative astronomical civic complex) to determine if corporate leadership persisted into the Classic period (AD 250 to 1000) at the site after network-based leadership arose in other polities, such as Tikal.  The 2013 field season was one of the largest so far with six graduate students and four Ph.D. researchers supervising 26 Belizean men and women in the field and lab.  University of Alabama personal included Dr. John Blitz, Luke Donohue, Borislava (Bobbie) Simova (now in the Ph.D. program at Tulane), and Emma Koenig, as well as others from Washington University in St. Louis, University of South Florida, and University of Mississippi (Figure 1).

Figure 3: Emma Koenig & Amirto Uck excavating the apron molding of Str. 23-1st.
Figure 2: Emma Koenig and Amirto Uck excavating the apron molding of Str. 23-1st.

To test the nature of early Maya leadership, the Project conducted excavations at two elite households, Strs. 29 and 73 that, based on their size and location, are likely candidates for an early ruler’s residence at Actuncan.  Investigations at the site’s E-Group also examined the nature of early Maya leadership.  Studies have shown that the onset of dynastic kingship, and accompanying transition to network-based authority, was marked by a shift in caching and burial practices at civic monuments. Initially, ritual practices revolved around the placement of caches in sacred monuments, but later, rulers’ ancestors were interred in them to fuse human and divine realms allowing living kings to claim descent from divine ancestors.  However, the timing of these practices is site dependent, presumably tied to the timing of the shift from corporate to network-based authority. 

Figure 3: Bobbie Simova excavating the apron modling of Str. 73a.
Figure 3: Bobbie Simova excavating the apron molding of Str. 73a.

Excavations at the two elite structures found that occupants of these houses occupied a similar social status, conformed to an architectural style canon, and displayed a uniform identity.  During the height of the center’s authority, each house sported an apron molding (Figure 2).  This façade style has pronounced top and bottom edges that frame a central register made by stacking and tenoning limestone blocks, which were ultimately covered in stucco and painted red.  Apron moldings are not unusual in the Maya lowlands, but they have not been reported for this area.  At Str. 73, the apron molding is substantially larger than that at Str. 29 or any other elite house at Actuncan, measuring at least 2 m high (Figure 3).  The amount of labor required to build Str. 73 would have far exceeded that of other elite houses indicating its construction required extra-household labor.  Structure 73 also is auspiciously located given that it is the closest house to the Triadic Temple Complex.  For these reasons, Dr. LeCount suggests that Structure 73 is likely the early king’s house.  Nonetheless, this house does not display a significantly different layout nor does it appear to be substantially wealthier in material possessions than other elite households.  These findings confirm that early leadership strategies at Actuncan were corporate in nature.

Figure 4: Four eccentrics from Structure 26.
Figure 4: Four eccentrics from Structure 26.

E-Groups are monumental complexes containing an eastern platform and a western radial pyramid, which are thought to function as solar observatories and locations for Preclassic agricultural rituals.  Excavations at Actuncan’s E-Group, directed by Luke Donohue, began in front of the central pyramid on top of the eastern platform.  After locating the central staircase, he discovered caches and artifacts associated with rituals performed on these stairs.  Staircases were the location of many activities including feasting, dancing, performances, presentations, offerings and sacrifices.  At Actuncan, Donohue found features associated with many of these, including a staircase cache, a termination deposit, a staircase block burial, and chert eccentrics.  Eccentrics are large formally shaped lithics used as offerings to ancestors, deities and sacred places (figure 4). Their position on top of the collapse suggests that they were placed there after the building had fallen apart.  These practices are consistent with other instances of revisitation and veneration of sacred houses and monuments found at the site.  On the summit of the pyramid, stacked stone represents the remains of a late altar. The pyramid itself was built of alternating cobble and sterile sand fill, and in one layer, many large bifaces interpreted as agricultural hoes were found.  These ritually cached hoes indicate that the construction of this pyramid was tied to agriculture or annual cycles.  

This summer’s excavations lend evidence to suggest that early kingship at Actuncan was more corporate than exclusive in nature.  Research in the summer 2014 will continue excavating to date the earliest levels of the E-Group, and also be directed at completing two Ph.D. research projects.

Alabama is a Serious Presence at Anthropology Conferences

Department of Anthropology promotional video

Alabama Anthropology research was well represented at regional and national conferences this past fall!

Armine Goertz, Jolynn. Fragments and Field Notebooks. Franz Boas and the Chehalis Oral Tradition. Paper presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Davis, Jera R. Moundville’s Defining Moment: Plazas, Architecture, and Collective Vision in Polity Formation. Paper presented at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Dengah II, H.J.F. Blessings of the Holy Spirit: How Religious Cultural Consonance Shapes Well-being among Brazilian Pentecostals. Paper presented at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24.

Dengah II, H.J.F. Blessings of the Holy Spirit: How Religious Cultural Consonance Shapes Psychological Well-being among Brazilian Pentecostals. Invited lecture given for the Colorado State University Alumni Lecture Series, Fort Collins, CO.

DeCaro, Jason, and Warren Wilson. Maternal Mental Health as a Mediator of the Impact Food Insecurity on Child Health in a Peri-Urban Region of Tanzania. Oral presentation at the Canadian Association of Physical Anthropologists, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, Oct. 17-20, 2013.

DeCaro, Jason, and Warren Wilson. Untangling the Knot of Correlated Adversities: Food Insecurity, Maternal Depression, and Maternal & Child Health in Mwanza, Tanzania. Oral presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Dressler, William W. Stability and Change in the Cognitive Structure of Four Cultural Domains after Ten Years.  Abstracts of the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Eubanks, Paul N. The Timing and Distribution of Caddo Salt Production in Northwestern Louisiana. Paper presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Tampa, Florida, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Funkhouser, Lynn. An Analysis of Near-Mound Cemeteries at Moundville. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Galbraith, Marysia. Engagements with Past, Present, and Future through Cultural Heritage. Poster session organized for the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Galbraith, Marysia. Selective Memories and Contested Futures: Temporality and Collective Representations. Poster presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Herndon, KE, BA Houk, M Willis, CP Walker, and A Booher. Structure from Motion Mapping and Remote Sensing at the Maya Site of Chan Chich, Belize. Presented at the South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica; Houston, Texas. November 2, 2013.

Knight, Vernon James. Discussant: Remembering Charlie: A Roundtable Discussion on the Life and Work of Charles Hudson. Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Kosiba, Steve. “Construyendo un paisaje inka: La constitución de la autoridad durante la formación del Estado inkaiko (Cuzco, Perú).” Invited lecture, Paper presented at the Programa de Estudios Andinos, Facultad de Letras y Ciencias Humanas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru, 2013.

Kowalski, Jessica. Mississippian-Period Settlement Size and Soil Productivity in the Southern Yazoo Basin, Mississippi. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

LaDu, Daniel. The 2013 Excavations at the Mazique Mounds. Paper presentation at the Southeastern Archaeology Conference annual meeting, Tampa, FL, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Lazo, Rodrigo, Kathy Oths, and Max Stein Assessing Change and Continuity in an Andean Medical System American Anthropological Association, 112th Annual Meetings, Chicago, IL. Nov.20-24, 2013.

LeCount, Lisa J., David W. Mixter, and Borislava Simova.  All the King’s Men: Investigating the Nature of Preclassic Maya Elite Households and Kingship at Actuncan, Belize. A paper presented at the 11th annual Belize Archaeology symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, July 4, 2013.

LeCount, Lisa J.  At the Intersections of Powers: Markets and Commodities in Classic Maya Society.  A paper presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in the symposium Households, Markets, World-Systems, and Political Economy: Alternative Pathways to Complexity, organized by Lane Fargher and Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza.  Honolulu, Hawaii, April 5, 2013.

Lynn, Christopher D. Defraying the Costs of “Analysis Paralysis”: A Neuroanthropological Model of Dissociation, Deafferentation, and Trance. Invited talk for the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, November 20—24, 2013.

Lynn, Christopher D. The Ecological Diversity of Transcendence. Invited talk for the Tuscaloosa Secular Humanists. Tuscaloosa, AL, September 25, 2013.

Mixter, David W., and Lisa J. LeCount.  Building History through Households: Contextualizing Social and Political Transitions at Actuncan.  A paper presented at the 11th annual Belize Archaeology symposium, San Ignacio, Belize, July 4, 2013.

Oths, Kathy. Discussant: When the Doctor Is Not In: Emergent Practices of Care in Patient/Nonphysician Provider Interactions. American Anthropological Association, 111th Annual Meetings, San Francisco, CA. Nov.20-24, 2013.   

Oths, Kathy. Roundtable Presenter: The Inextricability of Environment and Culture in the Emergence of 21st Century Maladies: Potential Contributions of Anthropology. American Anthropological Association, 111th Annual Meetings, San Francisco, CA. Nov.20-24, 2013.

Read-Wahidi, Mary Rebecca.  Poor and Living in a Foreign Land: Mexican Immigrants Coping with Life in Mississippi.  112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago IL. Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Smith, Karen Y., and Vernon James KnightThe Role of Primitive Geometric Elements in Swift Creek Art. Poster presentation at Southeastern Archaeological Conference annual meeting, Tampa, Florida, Nov. 6-9, 2013.

Steel, Meghan, and Christopher D. Lynn. Fireside Meditations: The Induction of a Relaxation Response by Focused Attention on a Flickering Light and Novel Sound Phenomenon. Oral presentation at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Stein, Max J. and  Christopher D. LynnReligion as Resilience: Evaluating the Intersections of Religious Collectivity and Disease in Limón Province, Costa Rica.  Paper presented at the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Chicago, IL, Nov. 20-24, 2013.

Fall 2013 Publications by Our Students

Department of Anthropology promotional video

Blitz, John H., and Erik S. Porth (2013) Social Complexity and the Bow in the Eastern  Woodlands. Evolutionary Anthropology 22(3):89-95. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21349.

Davis, CB, KA Shuler, ME Danforth, and KE Herndon (2013) Patterns of Interobserver Error in the Scoring of Entheseal Changes. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 23:147-151. DOI: 10.1002/oa.2277.

Eubanks, Paul N. (2013) Late Middle Woodland Settlement and Ritual at the Armory Site. In Early and Middle Woodland Landscapes of the Southeast, edited by Alice P. Wright and Edward R. Henry, pp.167-180. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Herndon, KE, A Booher, and BA Houk (2013) The 2013 Excavations of Structure A-5, Chan Chich, Belize. In The 2013 Season of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, edited by Brett A. Houk. Papers of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, Number 7. Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.

Houk, BA, CP Walker, M Willis, and KE Herndon (2013) Structure from Motion Mapping and Remote Sensing at Structure A-5, Chan Chich, Belize.In The 2013 Season of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, edited by Brett A. Houk. Papers of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, Number 7. Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock.