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Title: The archaeology of an ancient seaside town : performance and community at Samanco, Nepeña Valley, Peru
Author: Helmer, Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0003 9622 5062
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2014
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Studies of social complexity increasingly recognize the role of maritime communities in the development of large sociopolitical systems. The Central Andes present an ideal region for understanding maritime aspects of ancient social complexity, due to one of the most productive sea biomasses in the world. In this study I investigate Samanco, an ancient seaside town, and its contribution to urban transformations along the North-Central coast of Peru during the mid-1st millennium BCE. I consult a theoretical framework of performance and its influence on community organization as a framework for analyzing sociopolitical development. Mapping and excavation at Samanco documented a densely occupied settlement. Materials recovered imply that ancient Samanco was a community of low status inhabitants focused on day-to-day subsistence and trade. The discovery of animal enclosures, diverse cultigens, primarily domestic ceramics, and most importantly a dense array of marine goods support the inference of an early urban town centered on food production. I argue that trade to inland residential centers of Samanco’s vast food products, likely through the aid of camelid caravans, played an important part in early urban political economy and the overall success of the community. Daily interactions, seen as culturally important performances, promoted subsistence industry as a site identity. Patios at the heart of neighborhood compounds served as venues for learning, socialization, and communal interactions which shaped and negotiated Samanco society. Neighborhood compounds were built and materialized in a way that emphasized exclusion and autonomy among various co-resident groups living in separate compounds. Limited social hierarchies were enacted through public performances inside monumental plazas. Results bring new insights into social complexity, arguing for non-state urban societies which challenge neo-evolutionary ideas of state formation. The results also advocate exploration of past ii experiences and communal interactions as a way of bringing humans back to the forefront of archaeological inquiry. This thesis also advocates approaching sites as biographies by detailing various site performances at Samanco up to the present. One example includes site re-use for tombs during the 16th century CE ascribed to a performance of ancestor veneration associated with site ruins. The thesis also analyzes contemporary engagements with Samanco’s archaeological heritage to understand how local Andean communities experience and perform with archaeological ruins. I argue that local communities conceive of sites as dangerous but also fortuitous places inseparable from the rural and mystical Andean landscape, commanding a performance of respect. Moreover, interactions with archaeological sites and the stories told about them are integral in the construction of rural mestizo identities. These results emphasize the importance of collaboration and the promotion of local knowledge in archaeological research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available