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Early New World Monumentality

Richard L. Burger

Publication Year: 2012

In studies of ancient civilizations, the focus is often on the temples, palaces, and buildings created and then left behind, both because they survive and because of the awe they still inspire today. From the Mississippian mounds in the United States to the early pyramids of Peru, these monuments have been well-documented, but less attention has been paid to analyzing the logistical complexity involved in their creation.

In this collection, prominent archaeologists explore the sophisticated political and logistical organizations that were required to plan and complete these architectural marvels. They discuss the long-term political, social, and military impacts these projects had on their respective civilizations, and illuminate the significance of monumentality among early complex societies in the Americas.

Early New World Monumentality is ultimately a study of labor and its mobilization, as well as the long-term spiritual awe and political organization that motivated and were enhanced by such undertakings. Mounds and other impressive monuments left behind by earlier civilizations continue to reveal their secrets, offering profound insights into the development of complex societies throughout the New World.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright

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Figures

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pp. vii-x

Tables

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pp. xi-xii

I. IntroductIon

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1. Considering Early New World Monumentality

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pp. 1-21

Monumental construction projects have always been a conspicuous reminder of past societies and thus have long been the subject of archaeological inquiry. Culture historians have cast their interpretive net across large areas and tried to explain why monumentality diffused from one region to another (e.g., Childe 1958, 70; Ford 1969; Griffin 1952; Tello 1943). ...

II. North America

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2. Early Mounds in the Lower Mississippi Valley

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pp. 25-52

The rich and diverse environment in north Louisiana provided the economic foundation for establishing and maintaining a sedentary settlement pattern that eventually transformed preferred camp locales into residential sites. Mound construction began shortly thereafter, ca. 3700 cal. BC, and ended 1,000 years later. ...

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3. Shell Mounds of the Middle St. Johns Basin, Northeast Florida

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pp. 53-77

Monumentality has many origins across the globe, and multiple causes and conditions surround its various origins. In the southeastern United States, the oldest monuments were constructed at least four millennia before agriculture became important and by populations that were neither large nor sedentary (see Saunders this volume). ...

4. Monumentality in Eastern North America during the Mississippian Period

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pp. 78-108

III. MesoamerIca

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5. Agriculture and Monumentality in the Soconusco Region of Chiapas, Mexico

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pp. 111-137

As outlined in Chapter 1, monumental construction projects can be explored at two temporal scales: the initial organization of labor and the creation of locations in the local landscape that are imbued with meaning for the centuries that follow (Rosenswig and Burger this volume). In his thermodynamic explanation, Bruce Trigger (1990, 2004) ...

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6. Early Olmec Wetland Mounds: Investing Energy to Produce Energy

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pp. 138-173

By the time monumentality was explicitly manifested in the massive stone sculptures and earthen edifices created by the Olmec of Mexico’s southern Gulf Coast, its elusive origins were cloaked in the cultural foundations that made their creation possible. The colossal heads of monolithic stone cannot tell us how the rulers they portray ...

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7. The Origins of Monumentality in Ancient Guerrero, Mexico

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pp. 174-197

Monumentality is a cultural expression of social creativity and complexity. It has been considered one of numerous criteria in the characterization of ancient civilizations. Like many of the authors in this book, I drew guidance from an article by Bruce Trigger in defining monumentality and the forms and meanings they could assume (Trigger 1992). ...

8. Early Civilization in the Maya Lowlands, Monumentality, and Place Making: A View from the Holmul Region

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pp. 198-228

IV. Intermediate Area

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9. Monumental Architecture and Social Complexity in the Intermediate Area

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pp. 231-252

The region from eastern El Salvador and Honduras through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia is well known for its goldwork and as a center of highly developed chiefdom societies. But it should be equally renowned for its extensive and impressive large-scale constructions. For those not familiar with the region this may come as surprise. ...

V. South America

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10. Early Mounds and Monumental Art in Ancient Amazonia: History, Scale, Function, and Social Ecology

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pp. 255-288

In twentieth-century schemes of early human cultural evolution, large- scale public works were interpreted as characteristic of preindustrial state societies but not of small-scale or egalitarian societies. The idea was that only complex, centralized, stratified, agricultural societies have what it takes to build, maintain, and use monumental architecture and art. ...

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11. Why Do People Build Monuments?: Late Archaic Platform Mounds in the Norte Chico

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pp. 289-312

This chapter diverges from others in this volume by proposing that all monumental architecture requires leadership and centralized decision making. The construction of monumental architecture is relatively rare in a global and historical context. The vast majority of people over the past 200,000 years of human history did not build monuments on any scale. ...

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12. Monumental Architecture Arising from an Early Astronomical-Religious Complex in Perú, 2200–1750 BC

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pp. 313-363

This chapter advances the hypothesis that astronomer-priests directed the construction and adornment of the first monumental architecture in the Americas, the Late Preceramic stepped platform mounds in coastal Peruvian valleys. These astronomer-priests managed installation of the earliest public art at the Late Preceramic site of Buena Vista, Chillón Valley, Perú. ...

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13. Preceramic and Initial Period Monumentality within the Casma Valley of Peru

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pp. 364-398

Some 20 years ago, Trigger published his ideas about how monumental architecture and other examples of conspicuous consumption represented universally understood expressions of power (Trigger 1990). At that time, he was also expressing a universally assumed feature of the study of complex societies. ...

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14. Monumental Public Complexes and Agricultural Expansion on Peru’s Central Coast during the Second Millennium BC

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pp. 399-430

During the second millennium BC, monumental architecture proliferated along Peru’s central coast on a scale rarely if ever equaled in the area’s prehistory. Drawing upon investigations in the Lurín Valley, this chapter will explore the emergence of multiple U-shaped pyramid complexes and their relationship to the expansion of irrigation agriculture. ...

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

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pp. 431-454

A general reconnaissance of the Titicaca Basin shows that almost all of the landscape has been transformed by human activity into production zones, leaving basically no land in a pristine state. Such transformations are not uniformly present in the basin. Different strategies were used in diverse local environmental, climatic, and topographic conditions, ...

VI. ConclusIon

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16. A West Asian Perspective on Early Monuments

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pp. 457-465

Monumentality is commonly associated with “civilization,” a tangible criterion of a state of advanced social/political/economic complexity. According to one historian, civilization (derived from civitas, or “city”), can be distinguished from the villages that came before by two criteria: monumental buildings and fortifications (Hallo and Simpson 1998, 30). ...

Contributors

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pp. 466-470

Index

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pp. 471-489


E-ISBN-13: 9780813042732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813038087
Print-ISBN-10: 0813038081

Page Count: 494
Illustrations: 36 b&w illustrations, 57 line art, 8 tables
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Indian architecture -- America.
  • Mound-builders -- America.
  • Indians -- Dwellings.
  • Indians -- Urban residence.
  • America -- Antiquities.
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