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.

Incoming Department Members

New fall 2014 anthropology students (C. Lynn).

This past fall, we welcomed three new faculty members. Drs. Lesley Jo Weaver and Cameron Lacquement joined our faculty as Assistant Professors. In addition, Dr. David Meek, spouse of Dr. Weaver, joined as an Adjunct Faculty member in our department and taught a course for us in the fall 2014.

Dr. Lesley Jo Weaver
Lesley Jo Weaver

Jo Weaver received her Ph.D. and M.P.H from Emory University. She does research around the topics of chronic diseases, mental health, and nutrition in Brazil and India. Her doctoral work focused on social and family roles among women with type 2 diabetes in urban North India. Here she found that although women’s family roles in this cultural context can be extremely demanding and may detract from women’s ability to take care of their diabetes, these roles provide a source of social cohesion that appears to protect them from the mental ill health that often accompanies diabetes. Dr. Weaver is currently developing a new project on food insecurity and mental health in rural Brazil. As a response to public health and development initiatives that tend to examine only the nutritional aspects of food insecurity, this project is designed to test the relative contribution of both nutritional and social pathways in the established link between food insecurity and mental ill health. This is one arm of a larger global comparative study she is conducting with colleagues who work in Ethiopia, Haiti, and Malawi. Pilot work she conducted in 2013 suggested that in this community, social aspects of food insecurity, such as eating foods that carry the stigma of being “poor people’s foods,” may be just as damaging to mental health as the nutritional insufficiency that is sometimes also associated with food insecurity.

Dr. Cameron Lacquement
Cameron Lacquement

Cameron Lacquement received his undergraduate degree from Western Carolina University in anthropology focusing on forensics and criminal justice in 2002.  He received his masters from UA under the supervision of Dr. Jim Knight in 2004 by examining domestic architecture in the Black Warrior and Tombigbee River valleys.  The project required examining the archaeological evidence in the area but also had a experimental component, which involved the building and burning of a full-sized early Mississippian flexed pole house. During this time, he started branching out to other disciplines to support his research including wood science technology and structural engineering. His master’s research has been published as a book through the University of Alabama Press and an article in the Journal Of Primitive Technology. In 2009, Dr. Lacquement received his Ph.D from UA.  His dissertation research examined prehistoric monumental structures and landscapes and quantified the amount of labor necessary to create them in order to address the sociopolitical organization of labor involved in the construction of prehistoric monuments in the Southeast US. Portions of his research have been published and presented at SEAC. Since completing his degree, Dr. Lacquement has served as a instructor and now Assistant Professor in the department.  He teaches many of the introduction classes, creates and maintains online classes, and serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  In his off-time, Dr. Lacquementenjoys woodworking and carpentry, bowling, and playing softball for the department’s team, the Argonauts.

Dr. David Meek
David Meek

David Meek (PhD University of Georgia, 2014) is an environmental anthropologist, critical geographer, and education scholar with an area specialization in Brazil. Dr. Meek theoretically grounds his research in a synthesis of political ecology, critical pedagogy, and place-based education. His interests include sustainable agriculture, social movements, and environmental education. Dr. Meek’s work has been conducted using a combination of traditional anthropological and cartographic methods, such as GIS, remote sensing, and historic aerial photography. Dr. Meek has carried out research on sustainable agriculture education within Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement. This research explored how people learn about sustainable agriculture through political participation and the potential impact this learning has on agricultural practices and landscape changes. Dr. Meek’s past research focused on the relationships between public policies, economic incentives, and educational processes within an agrarian reform settlement in the Brazilian Amazon. Dr. Meek is currently collaborating on a research project with UA’s Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer looking at the relationship between K-5 students’ participation in the Druid City Garden project and academic performance, environmental knowledge, and nutritional choices. Dr. Meek has also been appointed a co-coordinator for a UNESCO-funded project that is bringing twenty MST activists from Brazil to various locations in the United States to work on agroecological community organizing. As part of a larger applied anthropological research project, he is exploring how this transnational solidarity exchange program influences US grassroots organizations’ knowledge about strategies of social mobilization, and agroecological techniques. While scholarship on transnational solidarity movements is growing, this research focuses on the unexplored element of non-formal learning that happens within these networks.  In a series of publications currently under review, Dr. Meek has begun advancing a theoretical framework of the political ecology of education. This perspective illuminates how the reciprocal relations between political economic forces and pedagogical opportunities—from tacit to formal learning—affect the production, dissemination, and contestation of environmental knowledge at various interconnected scales. The various research projects that Dr. Meek is involved with provide empirical data to support the advancement of the political ecology of education framework.

New fall 2014 anthropology students (C. Lynn).
New fall 2014 anthropology students (C. Lynn).

In addition to faculty, eight new graduate students joined the department in the fall, and three of our previous MA students were accepted to continue working with us as doctoral students. Clay Nelson is an archaeologist who received his BA and MA from UA and will continue at the doctoral level focusing on Southeastern U.S. archaeology and Mississippian societies. Ashley Stewart received her BA from Auburn in 2010 and a master’s degree from our department this past spring and will continue her focus in bioarchaeology here at the doctoral level. Mirjam Holleman joins us as a doctoral student in the Biocultural Medical program. She completed her BA and MA in the Netherlands and will focus on disabilities research in Poland.

Several new master’s students also joined us. Shannon Edsall (BA, Auburn) and Allyson Harrison (BA, University of Michigan-Dearborn) joined us to study bioarchaeology. Katie Lazzara (BS/BA, University of Iowa), Cassie Medeiros (BA, William & Mary), and Gracie Riehm (BA, University of Georgia) are archaeology students. Katie is here to study Andean archaeology, Cassie joined us to study the archaeology of alcohol, and Gracie is interested in Southeastern archaeology and the Late Mississippian and Contact periods. Nikki Henderson (BS, Emory) and Edward Quinn (BA, University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse) are biocultural medical students. Nikki joined us to study mental health and addiction, while Edward is focused on social rank and chronic stress.