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Title: Anthropomorphism and staffed personages at Tiahuanaco, Bolivia c. AD 600-1000
Author: Viau-Courville, Matthieu
ISNI:       0000 0004 2716 6182
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2010
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During the Middle Horizon (c. AD 600-1000), a new iconography spread throughout the South Central Andes known as the Southern Andean Iconographic Series (SAIS). One of its most persistent motifs is the Staff God, a human-like personage facing forward and holding a vertical staff in each hand. Most interpretations of Staff Gods describe them as representations of Andean deities. The present contribution discusses anthropomorphism in Andean antiquity (here understood as the objectification of unseen agents (like spirits or gods) using human-like models) by focusing on Staff God imagery found at the archaeological site ofTiahuanaco in the Bolivian flat highlands. Contrary to the mainstream interpretation model, the project shows that Staff God anthropomorphs are representations of ritual practitioners engaged in scenes of ritual action. The thesis identifies a set of (Western) biases toward Staff God imagery that may have contributed to the erroneous interpretation of Staff Gods as cases of Andean divine anthropomorphism. The research focuses on the ritual action of which the personages are parts. Emphasized is a possible kind of Andean anthropomorphism associated with the notion of bodily practices, where it seems that the body of the ritual practitioner provided, for the devotees, the objectification (and personification) of supernatural agency. The study concludes by arguing that divine anthropomorphism, as the objectification of a supernatural agent into its human-like 'art' form, may not necessarily be part of the Andean thought and cognitive process. In other words, many Andean peoples did not appear to feel the need to 'invent' human-like forms to embody supernatural agents and agency. Instead, supernatural agency was embodied by models drawn from the natural environment, including mountains, but also the ritual practitioners themselves.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available