Chapter

Agricultural Terraces as Monumental Architecture in the Titicaca Basin: Their Origins in the Yaya-Mama Religious Tradition

Sergio J. Chávez

in Early New World Monumentality

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780813038087
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043128 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813038087.003.0015
Agricultural Terraces as Monumental Architecture in the Titicaca Basin: Their Origins in the Yaya-Mama Religious Tradition

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The monumentality of ancient agricultural terraces in the Titicaca Basin can be observed especially on the Copacabana Peninsula, where most hills facing the lake are covered by stone-faced terraces. Terrace construction has been attributed to the expansionist Tiahuanaco and Inca polities. However, this chapter proposes several lines of evidence pointing to a much earlier date for the beginnings of their construction, and expansion by later polities. The associated early material remains belong to the Yaya-Mama Religious Tradition, an endogenous tradition related to the first unification of diverse groups of people and the earliest public architecture in the region. Diagnostic lines of evidence include studies of remains derived from extensive surface surveys on terraced hills and some excavations on terraces, demonstrating abundant presence of Yaya-Mama materials. Further analyses were conducted on excavated botanical remains and human skeletons, the latter demonstrating widespread physical stresses. Experiments and ethnographic interviews of local informants show the extent of labor used in stone cutting, terrace building, and their continued use into the present. Consequently, the presence of utilitarian terraces seen today on a monumental scale is the result of accretion, and can certainly be placed among the largest monuments in the Americas.

Keywords: agricultural terraces; Yaya Mama; monumental architecture; Lake Titicaca Basin; Copacabana Peninsula

Chapter.  7932 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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