PhD Dissertations: Kathleen H. Sykes, 1991

Symbolic Structure, Social Strategies, and the Built Environment of an Ancient Andean Village: A.D. 1250–1460

As archaeologists we are necessarily concerned with the symbolic dimension of social practices. The significance of house design, village layout, ceramic decoration, lies in their symbolic meaning within a particular social and historical context. This study is concerned with the relationship between the physical layout and the symbolic structure of Carcas, a late prehistoric village (A.D. 1250–1460) in the Central highlands of Peru. The social structure of this village is inferred from field data obtained from test excavations, mapping and the classification of architectural features, and is compared with data on social relations and their symbolic dimension in social practice from ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources of the same region. The concept of stratified capital—economic capital (one's position in the production process), cultural capital (one's speech, dress, values) and social capital (one's ancestry and concomitant patrimony)—is employed to define elites and commoners. The main thesis put forward is that the social structure consisted of two classes, commoners and elites, and that the social relations of inequality between these two groups are embodied in the physical layout of the village and justified by the cosmology of Andean peoples. The study, based on both published material and my own research, is intended to be an exploration and application of theoretical ideas which give preeminence to social practice and associated symbolic dimension (in the sense of systems of meaning and representation) which penetrated daily life at the village in the service of the perpetuation of an Andean hierarchy.