Date of Award




First Advisor

Shimada, Izumi

Second Advisor

Wagner, Mark

Third Advisor

McCall, John


Stone plays an inextricable role in the lives of Andean peoples and the monumental stoneworks of pre-Hispanic cultures stand in memorial to the experiences and beliefs of those who created them. Stone is often selected as a medium for symbolic works due to its durability and perceived permanence, but in the Andes, its meaning expands beyond its physical properties. Stone was an extension of the animate landscape that both sheltered and endangered its inhabitants. Stories were attached to stones, whether natural or modified, to embed knowledge of the landscape and of history in the memory of communities. Centuries later, archaeologists utilize modified stones and constructed monuments as a window to understand long past societies. As our own technological abilities expand, we are able to garner even deeper understandings of the way stones were used and the meanings they may have once held.

High in the Peruvian Andes, in a small city renown for its natural beauty and ecological adventures, there is a modest museum, where hundreds of once powerful stone ancestors are visited by school groups and tourists, receiving words of wonder in place of the offerings of coca, chicha, and music once granted to them by their human children and grandchildren known today as the Recuay people. These carved figures give clues to their meaning through their crouched mummified positions and their accoutrements of power, warfare, and fertility. But much of their histories have been lost, as looting, religious persecution, and local curation have moved almost all of these ancestors from their resting places, erasing clues about their roles and meaning in the society that made them.

Utilizing a Holistic Approach to craft production (Shimada and Craig 2013; Shimada and Merkel 1987; Shimada and Wagner 2007), this research seeks to recontextualize these powerful Recuay ancestors that once populated the Huaraz region of highland Ancash (ca. 100-700 CE) through an investigation of their making. Each choice and action in the process of production reveals important information about broader technological systems, social, political, and economic relationships, and the cosmologies and belief systems of the makers. Incorporating multiple lines of evidence from geochemical and technological analysis, as well and surveys of archaeological sites, interviews with modern stone sculptors, and experimental testing of manufacturing techniques, this research provides a reconstruction of the entire production sequence for Recuay stone ancestors, from the selection, procurement, and dispersal of raw materials to the techniques, tools, and settings employed in manufacturing. This research offers an example of the efficacy of the Holistic Approach to gain sociocultural insights from material records of the process of production through direct evidence of manufacturing and to overcome limitations regarding artifact provenience. Additionally, the robust geochemical analysis outlined here provides a replicable approach to semi-quantitative sourcing studies through non-destructive portable X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy, with an analytical approach that is as accessible as equipment operation. As a rare case study in pre-Inkaic stone quarrying and carving, this research showcases the technological and symbolic variability within a centuries long belief system that recognized the animate landscape and treated extracted materials as an extension of those forces.

Over the course of this 600 year long carving tradition, Recuay artisans altered the forms and iconographic details of these important sculptures, but the production techniques, surface treatments, and raw materials remained remarkably consistent. Only four geologic sources provided raw materials for 96% of analyzed sculptures in this regional assemblage across three different volcanic stone types, including two long-hypothesized quarries, Pongor and Cerro Walun. Over 97% of sculptures across all volcanic, sedimentary, and plutonic stone types shared a specially crafted surface treatment that differed from other Recuay stoneworks and from stone sculptures of preceding cultures in the region. Investigations at the confirmed quarry site of Cerro Walun reveal contextualized insights about the infrastructure of stone quarrying and carving and its close association with tombs and venerated, animate landscapes. Combined with understandings of communal ancestor veneration and intercommunity socio-political negotiations among the Recuay, we see that these stone figures and the process of creating them played an active role in the expression and maintenance of relationships and knowledge between communities and across generations.




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