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Vessels, Burials and Households: Piñami's Evidence of the Tiwanaku State in the Central Valley of Cochabamba


In the middle of the flatlands of the Cochabamba Central Valley of Bolivia, Piñami, one of many habitation mounds in the valley, is exceptional for producing some of the most extensive Tiwanaku-era evidence from Cochabamba. Over the course of five years, I led an international team in the excavation of a multigenerational mound at Piñami. The excavation yielded over 92,000 ceramics (including potsherds and entire vessels), over 60 funerary contexts, architectural and other household evidence, and four new radiocarbon dates. This dissertation considers the implications this rich mass of evidence has on questions of Central Valley chronology and of Tiwanaku influence on Cochabamba.

The findings at Piñami demonstrate the great impact of Tiwanaku on the Central Valley in ceramics and drinking practices, mortuary rituals, and economic and household activities. I use ceramic evidence to argue that the association between the Central Valley and Tiwanaku was strong by the Piñami Phase and that decorated fineware expressed materially and symbolically the transformation of local social identities. Piñami mortuary evidence also reflects the substantial impact of Tiwanaku on the Central Valley as seen in changes in body position, vessel offerings and tomb construction. Further, I use cranial deformation and strontium isotope studies to support a hypothsis of an ethnically diverse population at Piñami that shared the same mortuary space. Finally, I use a variety of household evidence to show the impact of Tiwanaku on daily life at Piñami and to present a picture of a shared essential cosmology with Tiwanaku.

As for the nature of Tiwanaku expansion, I argue that Tiwanaku had more corporate state than exclusionary state characteristics: locals actively incorporated a Tiwanaku identity, and markers of Tiwanaku culture were widespread rather than restricted to elites. Further, the strong evidence of local response unearthed at Piñami, showing in a variety of ways the adoption of styles, technology, customs, symbols and everyday household items, supports the view of indirect control and the exercise of soft power in Tiwanaku expansion.

Piñami evidence also refines Central Valley chronlogy both by showing artifact changes over time and by providing new radiocarbon dates that more definitively tie Central Valley chronology to Tiwanaku. In short, this dissertation demonstrates that the Central Valley was of great importance to Tiwanaku for hundreds of years and aims to fill a vital gap in Tiwanaku studies that have underestimated Cochabamba in models of Tiwanaku expansion.

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