The Materialities of Place Making in the Ancient Andes: a Critical Appraisal of the Ontological Turn in Archaeological Interpretation
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- Swenson, E. J Archaeol Method Theory (2015) 22: 677. doi:10.1007/s10816-014-9202-2
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The article critically appraises the ontological turn in archaeological research, especially approaches that draw inspiration from nonrepresentational and non-anthropocentric theories. A comparison of the Late Formative center of Jatanca (300–100 bce) with the neighboring Moche site of Huaca Colorada (ad 650–850) in the Jequetepeque Valley of Peru will then demonstrate how radical transformations in architectural construction point to fundamental changes in how communities perceived and experienced the material world. The markedly different traditions of place making certainly suggest significant shifts in the meaning and political effects of built environments. Nevertheless, the article concludes with the important caveat that the pronounced architectural differences do not necessarily translate to major shifts in ontologies and constructions of personhood but more likely to transformations in ritual practices and political organization. Therefore, the comparison reveals the dangers of assuming that distinct materialities correspond to distinct ontologies or even distinct “materialisms.” Ultimately, the author argues that a focus on the materialities of place making, as opposed to generic interpretations of ontology, permits a more effective means of reconstructing historical process within the specific Andean context.