Food, Feasts, and the Construction of Identity and Power in Ancient Tiwanaku: A Bioarchaeological Perspective
Berryman, Carrie Anne
This dissertation examines the relationship between dramatic changes in Andean culinary traditions and the development of one of the earliest state level societies in the Americas, Tiwanaku. Located in the Southern Lake Titicaca Basin of what is today Bolivia, Tiwanaku became a major urban center during the Middle Horizon (500- 1150 A.D.) and its influence quickly spread throughout the South Central Andes. Previous archaeological and paleobotanical research suggested that significant changes in diet, particularly the consumption of maize beer, or chicha, in the context of communal feasting events, occurred in conjunction with these sociopolitical developments. In order to evaluate the potential role of food related practices in the construction of political authority, I used bioarchaeological data, including standard dental observations, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, and analysis of plant microfossils from human dental calculus, to examine the diets of individuals living in the Tiwanaku heartland before, during, and after the development of the state. This study demonstrates that Tiwanaku was an intensely hierarchical and politically centralized state, which was likely involved in managing the production and distribution of imported resources such as maize. This is indicated by a significant increase in the consumption of imported maize associated with the rise of the state, as documented by this study, and further supported by previous archaeological and paleobotanical data documenting evidence of large-scale maize provisioning and the presence of specialized chicha production areas. Differential consumption patterns also suggest that access to large amounts of maize became an important means of marking status and ethnic boundaries, and thus, creating and maintaining social hierarchy in Tiwanaku society. I argue that maize beer was a key element in both diacritical and patron-role feasting events that were vital to the construction and maintenance of Tiwanaku’s political authority. Finally, significant changes in diet also accompanied the dissolution of the state in the Late Intermediate Period. Diets became more homogenous and included substantially more camelid meat and significantly less maize or local staple crops. These data suggest that with the collapse of the state, dietary distinctions no longer marked boundaries between altiplano social groups and the intense social hierarchy of the Middle Horizon was effectively leveled.