Building Taypikala: Telluric Transformations in the Lithic Production of Tiwanaku

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DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-5200-3_4
Issn: 1568-2722
Cite this publication
Stone configured Tiwanaku construction and identity. A vital component of Tiwanaku’s most important monuments, it defined Tiwanaku as a place and a people. Here we summarize ongoing geoarchaeological research into the lithic production of Tiwanaku monumentality. We discuss our research on stone quarrying and monumental production in light of previous investigation on the topic. We conclude that monumental stone production was critical to Tiwanaku’s emergence as a central urban center. A shift in lithic materials, sources, and quarrying technologies propelled Tiwanaku’s rise as a primary urban center during the Andean Middle Horizon. This was a transformation from sandstone, quarried in the nearby Kimsachata Mountains, to the strategic inclusion of more durable volcanic andesite, quarried in several new more distant locations including the extinct volcano Mount Ccapia. Our research attests the telluric foundation of Tiwanaku urbanism and cosmology, which originated in Late Formative centers and interaction networks. It also attests the importance of the contrasting materiality of two classes of stone—their differing colors and durabilities, technologies of monumental production, and montane places of origin—for Tiwanaku’s emergent centrality and cosmology.
N. Tripcevich and K.J. Vaughn (eds.), Mining and Quarrying in the Ancient Andes,
Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-5200-3_4,
© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
Stone was elemental to Tiwanaku identity. One name for Tiwanaku, and possibly a
key epithet during its pre-Inca apogee, was taypikala , or “central stone” ( Cobo 1990
[1653] : 100). The employment of impeccably carved stones and the elaboration of
stonework in Tiwanaku are among the most notable physical aspects of monumen-
tal construction at the site. Tiwanaku monumentality emphasized the permanence,
mass, color, and texture of stone. It showcased stone’s materiality. Yet the stones
used to build Tiwanaku, and thus the materiality and technology of Tiwanaku mon-
umental construction, shifted dramatically between ad 500 and 700. Tiwanaku’s
employment of new stone sources and technologies distinguished it from other cen-
ters in the Lake Titicaca Basin. What was the character of this shift? What were its
lithic sources, and why did they change?
Stone remains critical for shaping native identities in the south-central Andes.
Today, a person raised in Tiwanaku is considered kalawawa , or born of stone.
Although partly in jest, this identi cation has deeper resonance in the region.
This was made clear at a celebration of Machac Mara (or “New Year”) on the June
solstice in 2002, on the ruins of the site of Khonkho Wankane in the upper
Desaguadero basin. The ritual is a recently established tradition designed by native-
identifying communities as they began to garner power in Bolivian national politics.
J.W. Janusek (*)
Anthropology , Vanderbilt University , Box 6050 Station B , Nashville , TN 37235 , USA
P. R. Williams M. Golitko
Field Museum of Natural History , 1400 S Lake Shore Dr , Chicago , IL 60605 , USA
e-mail: rwilliams@ ; mgolitko@
C. Lémuz Aguirre
Sociedad de Arqueologia de La Paz, y Universidad Mayor de San Andrés ,
Casilla postal , 5294 La Paz , Bolivia
Chapter 4
Building Taypikala: Telluric Transformations
in the Lithic Production of Tiwanaku
John Wayne Janusek , Patrick Ryan Williams,
Mark Golitko, and Carlos Lémuz Aguirre
66 J.W. Janusek et al.
Initiated in the focal blood sacri ce of a carefully selected camelid as the sun
ascends the horizon to the east, it continues as a lively event full of vendors selling
wares, competitive local dances, and political discussion. At one point in 2002, a
local political aspirant made a particularly dramatic gesture. In the midst of an ani-
mated speech on the importance of fostering a native Aymara identity, he bent over
and patted his hand vigorously on one of Khonkho’s carved stone monoliths, while
proclaiming “we are this stone, this stone is us.”
The relationship of humans and their landscapes in the highland Andes is deeply
political. Hilltops and mountain peaks are particularly important places invoked in
local prayers, libations, and sacri cial offerings in earnest bids to ensure health,
community well-being, and the success of particular projects (archaeological and
otherwise, see Abercrombie
1998 ) . So are local springs and certain other prominent
landscape features. Hilltops and mountain peaks are animated as powerful ancestral
persons in native ritual practices such that they come to support, and indeed repre-
sent, the local communities who pay tribute to them. Hilltops and peaks also punc-
tuate the landscapes of local communities and larger political organizations.
Fundamental components of local ritual practices, they de ne sociopolitical territo-
ries while grounding communities to the altiplano and its agropastoral and mineral
resources. The essential component of mountains, stone was a particularly impor-
tant class of resources in the altiplano.
Given the profound long-term importance of stone in the Andean highlands, it is
striking that so little systematic research has been dedicated to understanding quar-
rying and preparation practices for monumental construction. A notable example of
recent research includes Dennis Ogburn’s analysis of carved andesite ashlars in
Saraguro, Ecuador, that date to the Inca period (Ogburn 2004a, b ) . Through XRF
spectrometry, he determined that those volcanic blocks had been quarried in the
Rumiqolqa quarry some 35 km from Cuzco, Peru; approximately 1,600 km from
Saraguro. Ogburn concludes that it was important for the Inca to transfer volcanic
material from a particular source and of a particular material type over an incredible
distance. The Inca employed the same andesite quarry to construct many of the most
important structures in Cuzco (Ogburn 2004a ; Protzen 1983 ). Ogburn considers the
movement of massive andesite stones a “transfer of sacredness,” and suggests that
the last legitimate Inca ruler, Wayna Capac, had the Saraguro andesite moved just as
he was establishing a new center in the northern Andean highlands.
This chapter explores the shift from sandstone to volcanic stone at Tiwanaku. It
explores (1) the shift from exclusive quarrying in the local Kimsachata mountain
range to the inclusion of sources in more distant, ancient volcanoes and volcanic
outcrops; and (2) the signi cance of this shift in relation to Tiwanaku’s increasing
regional prestige and sociopolitical centralization in the Tiwanaku Period. We pres-
ent new data related to Tiwanaku’s stone sources recovered through reconnaissance
and analysis conducted in 2009–2011. Our conclusions center on these data and
their signi cance in relation to previous research and thought on Tiwanaku stone
sourcing. Secondarily, the paper proposes some preliminary hypotheses regarding
the signi cance of the shift from sandstone to volcanic stone, emphasizing the ritual
4 Building Taypikala
and political dimensions of this shift. We conclude that the full materiality of
stone—its source, texture, color, relative hardness, mineral qualities, and so forth—
were made to be essential in de ning what Tiwanaku was, ritually and politically,
and who “the Tiwanaku” were, personally and collectively.
Lithic Transformations in the Production of Tiwanaku
Tiwanaku emerged as a major ritual–political center in the southeastern lake Titicaca
Basin during the Late Formative Period (100 bc ad 500) and expanded greatly in
extent and monumentality during the latter generations of that period, or Late
Formative 2 (~ ad 250–500). Tiwanaku transformed into what most archaeologists
agree was an expansive urban center after ad 500, during the Andean Middle
Horizon, known locally as the Tiwanaku Period (which comprises early and late
phases, known as Tiwanaku IV and V). Stone was a critical fundamental component
of Tiwanaku monumentality from the early Late Formative (Fig. 4.1 ).
Sandstone and Tiwanaku’s Late Formative Monumentality
During the Late Formative, Sandstone was the principal lithic component of
Tiwanaku monumental architecture. Most of it varied from yellowish to reddish
brown. Sandstone was carved to form “parallelepiped” ashlars for architectural
revetments, paved oors, terrace foundations, subterranean canals, and a host of
other structural features of Tiwanaku’s monumental landscape. Most of Tiwanaku’s
sculpted monolithic stelae, which depict personi ed ancestral deities and animate
natural forces (Janusek 2006, 2008 ) also consisted of sandstone (Ohnstad and
Janusek n.d.).
Monumental Structures
Employing sandstone for monumental construction began early in the Late
Formative Period. Many of Tiwanaku’s ceremonial spaces and monolithic sculp-
tures date to this period (Ohnstad and Janusek n.d.). The earliest extant monu-
mental structure at Tiwanaku, the ‘Semi-subterranean Temple ,’ most likely dates
to Late Formative 1 (Fig.
4.2 ) (Bennett 1934 ; Ponce Sanginés 1981, 1990 ; Janusek
2004, 2008 ) . We refer to this as Tiwanaku’s Sunken Temple. Its walls consisted
mostly of relatively small, roughly hewn red sandstone blocks supported by deeply
set, vertical pilasters. Carved heads tenoned in the wall—which may postdate the
temple’s construction—consist of light sedimentary rock from chalky outcrops
68 J.W. Janusek et al.
scattered across the region. A single south-facing stairway entrance consists of
massive, rectangular sandstone blocks.
Construction on the Kalasasaya Platform Complex, which bounds the west side
of the Semi-subterranean Temple, also began during the Late Formative (Ponce
1981, 1990 ; also Janusek 2004, 2008 ) . Kalasasaya dates later than the
Semi-subterranean Temple and most likely to Late Formative 2 (Fig. 4.3 ). Its engi-
neering drew on that of the Sunken Temple, yet manifested on a grander scale. The
outer revetment mimicked the architectural construction of the Semi-subterranean
temple’s interior walls, but they were far more extensive. The deeply set vertical
pilasters of Kalasasaya’s platform revetment, which buttress its wall segments, are
massive. The monumental east entrance to the Kalasasaya consisted purely of
carved sandstone blocks.
Fig. 4.1 Location of key structural features in Tiwanaku (from Janusek 2008 : Fig. 4.1 )
4 Building Taypikala
S c u l p t e d s a n d s t o n e m o n o l i t h i c s t e l a e p u n c t u a t e d Tiwanaku’s expanding monumental
landscape. Late Formative monoliths consisted primarily of reddish-brown sand-
stone in Tiwanaku and at Late Formative centers across the southern Lake Titicaca
Basin (Ohnstad and Janusek n.d.; Ohnstad n.d.). At Tiwanaku, as at Khonkho
Wankane, each stela depicts a single anthropomorphic personage. The personage
wears distinctive facial ornaments or painting, including suborbital lightning bolts
Fig. 4.2 Tiwanaku’s Late Formative Semi-Subterranean or Sunken temple (photo by J. Janusek)
Fig. 4.3 Tiwanaku’s Late Formative Kalasasaya platform (photo by Wolfgang Schüler)
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