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Palaces and Power in the Americas

From Peru to the Northwest Coast

Edited by Jessica Joyce Christie and Patricia Joan Sarro

Publication Year: 2006

Ancient American palaces still captivate those who stand before them. Even in their fallen and ruined condition, the palaces project such power that, according to the editors of this new collection, it must have been deliberately drawn into their formal designs, spatial layouts, and choice of locations. Such messages separated palaces from other elite architecture and reinforced the power and privilege of those residing in them. Indeed, as Christie and Sarro write, “the relation between political power and architecture is a pervasive and intriguing theme in the Americas.” Given the variety of cultures, time periods, and geographical locations examined within, the editors of this book have grouped the articles into four sections. The first looks at palaces in cultures where they have not previously been identified, including the Huaca of Moche Site, the Wari of Peru, and Chaco Canyon in the U.S. Southwest. The second section discusses palaces as “stage sets” that express power, such as those found among the Maya, among the Coast Salish of the Pacific Northwest, and at El Tajín on the Mexican Gulf Coast. The third part of the volume presents cases in which differences in elite residences imply differences in social status, with examples from Pasado de la Amada, the Valley of Oaxaca, Teotihuacan, and the Aztecs. The final section compares architectural strategies between cultures; the models here are Farfán, Peru, under both the Chimú and the Inka, and the separate states of the Maya and the Inka. Such scope, and the quality of the scholarship, make Palaces and Power in the Americas a must-have work on the subject.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. -

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. 1ix-x

This volume grew out of a symposium Patricia Sarro and I organized for the 2000 Conference of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) held in Philadelphia. Both of us had been interested in Mesoamerican palaces for some time. After I...

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Note on Orthography

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pp. xi-

Correct orthography or the spelling of terms in native languages is a complex issue in the study of indigenous cultures in the Americas. Recently, many scholars, and in particular Mayanists, inspired by advances in linguistics, have attempted to use spellings that come as close as we can currently determine...

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pp. 1-20

One of the most spectacular examples of a residence with political functions is without any doubt the palace of Versailles, built in France in the seventeenth century. Commissioned by Louis XIV as a royal residence as well as the seat of government, Versailles materialized Louis XIV’s conception of kingship in its architectural layout and luxurious decoration. Building on the...

Part 1: Identification of Palaces

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Chapter 1: Looking for Moche Palaces in the Elite Residences of the Huacas of Moche Site

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pp. 23-43

The Moche civilization is considered a class-structured society and an Archaic State. It is difficult, however, to establish its pristine nature because the North Coast of Peru is known for an early development of public architecture...

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Chapter 2: Landscape of Power: A Network of Palaces in Middle Horizon Peru

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pp. 44-98

Archaeologists know little about political power and kingship in pre-Inka Andean societies. In significant part this is because we have ignored the principal engine of regal power, the royal palace. In fact, many archaeologists avoid identifying palaces and kings in the Andean past, preferring to classify monumental buildings as temples and paramount individuals as priests....

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Chapter 3: Lords of the Great House: Pueblo Bonito as a Palace

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pp. 99-114

Palaces in the United States? Perhaps for colonial governors or railroad barons or newspaper moguls, but surely not for pre-Columbian natives. That seems odd: native peoples built palaces in Mexico, but not (apparently) in the United...

Part 2: Palaces as Active Stage Sets of Political Ideology

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Chapter 4: Sacred and Profane Mountains of the Pasi

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pp. 117-140

Recent debate in Maya archaeology has emphasized the great regional variability of Classic Maya civilization. Controversy has also centered around the nature of ancient Maya states, that is, the degree to which they were ‘‘centralized’’ or ‘‘decentralized’’ and the realms of action of Classic-period rulers—economic, political, or ideological (see, for example, Fox et al. 1996). More...

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Chapter 5: Political Dimensions of Monumental Residences on the Northwest Coast of North America

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pp. 141-165

Large, multifamily households were a central socioeconomic institution in ethnographic and prehistoric Northwest Coast societies. Households were an important arena for the construction of political power, and houses were important vehicles for the expression and broadcast of the power and status of household elite members. Historic-period descriptions of North-...

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Chapter 6: Rising Above: The Elite Acropolis of El Taj

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pp. 166-188

El Taj

Part 3: Correspondences between Material Aspects of Elite Residences and Social Status

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Chapter 7: The Residence of Power at Paso de la Amada, Mexico

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pp. 191-210

Beginning around 1600 B.C., ancient Mesoamericans started their ‘‘Neolithic Revolution.’’ They became increasingly reliant on cultivated plants,settled into permanent villages, began manufacturing pottery and ceramic figurines, and traded over vast areas for a wide range of exotic goods, including obsidian and jade. Archaeologists recognize that there was variation in...

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Chapter 8: When Is a House a Palace? Elite Residences in the Valley of Oaxaca

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pp. 211-255

In this chapter we use elite residential architecture in the Valley of Oaxacato trace shifting conceptualizations of social and political power through time. We frame our discussion by making a heuristic distinction between elite residences and palaces. Although this latter term is often used simply to describe an elite residence, we envision palaces here as multipurpose ...

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Chapter 9: Rulership and Palaces at Teotihuacan

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pp. 256-284

Of all the Classic-period capitals in Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan was unique in terms of its size, the scale of its public architecture, its large population,and the indications that it managed an expansive domain of political relations. In consequence, Teotihuacan’s palace architecture should be conspicuous—on a larger scale and more luxurious than the city’s other ...

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Chapter 10: Antecedents of the Aztec Palace: Palaces and Political Power in Classic and Postclassic Mexico

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pp. 285-310

From Classic-period Teotihuacan to Tenochtitl

Part 4: Comparison of Palaces across Cultures

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Chapter 11: Elite Residences at Farf

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pp. 313-352

In seventeenth-century France, the turrets and high walls of a lord’s country estate echoed the estate’s past function as a fortress, even though military activities had ceased ...

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Chapter 12: Houses of Political Power among the Ancient Maya and Inka

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pp. 353-396

The purpose of this study is to compare and contrast palaces and elite residences and their political functions in Maya and Inka societies. At first glance, such an undertaking may seem meaningless because the Maya and Inka...

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pp. 397-401

In 1987, Arlen and Diane Chase organized a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting—a session I also participated in—on the theme of the Mesoamerican elites. Many of the ideas and themes and some of the data presented at that meeting were paralleled and amplified in the 2000 session, ‘‘Palaces and Power,’’ on which the present volume is based....


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pp. 402-406


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pp. 407-414

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796102
E-ISBN-10: 0292796102
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292709843
Print-ISBN-10: 0292709846

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 126 figures, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 69184186
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Palaces and Power in the Americas

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Subject Headings

  • Power (Social sciences) -- Congresses.
  • Indian architecture -- Congresses.
  • Indians -- Politics and government -- Congresses.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Congresses.
  • Indians -- Kings and rulers -- Congresses.
  • Chiefdoms -- America -- Congresses.
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