Fall 2019

2019/20 Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology
Viewing the World from a Moche Mask: The Ontological Turn and the Fate of Meaning in Archaeology
Edward Swenson, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Toronto
4pm, Friday, September 27 in Hale 230

Ritual masks, defined as material objects that disguise, transform, and resignify the identity of its wearer, commonly serve as powerful agents in initiation rites, funerary rituals, theatrical displays, and reenactments of cosmogonic myths. In this lecture, an investigation of masquerade among the Moche of the North Coast of Peru (AD 200-800) reveals that masks acted as animated persons that extended and distributed the life-force (camay) of powerful wak’as (sacred beings). In particular, I examine the remains of broken ceramic masks recovered in feasting middens at the Moche ceremonial center of Huaca Colorada (AD 650-900)
in the southern Jequetepeque Valley of the North Coast of Peru to demonstrate that Moche masking traditions ritually materialized the ontological underpinnings of political and religious ideologies. The iconography of the masks suggests they were worn by officiants who reenacted stories of creation in rites that promoted agricultural bounty, life, and fertility. The discovery of mask fragments and musical instruments in middens containing a high quantity of face-neck jars used to decant corn beer further indicates that ritual specialists donned masks during feasting events staged on ceremonial platforms. The masked figures and their replicated ambassadors, materialized in numerous portable jars sporting prominent faces, acted as conduits of life-giving fluids that were festively circulated among celebrants gathered at the site. In the end, an analysis of Moche masks permits a critical assessment of archaeological interpretations of past ontological dispositions.

Ed Swenson September 27 2019

2019/20 Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology
Imperial Expansion and Transformations in Gender ideologies during the Andean Middle Horizon
Edward Swenson, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Toronto
7pm, Saturday, September 28 in Hale 270

The Middle Horizon (AD 600-900) is associated with the florescence of the highland Wari Empire, and it coincided with widespread economic, political, and religious transformations throughout the Andes. Archaeological investigations of the Late Moche Period (AD 650-800) in the Jequetepeque Valley of northern Peru suggest that Wari expansion resulted in the reconstitution of gender ideologies as reflected in the ascendency of women ritual specialists and a new iconographic corpus celebrating a Moche goddess. The lecture presents results from recent archaeological research in the southern Jequetepeque Valley that sheds light on the role of Wari imperialism in reformulating gender-based political associations on the coast. I argue that novel architectural designs encoded a religious cosmology founded on gender complementarity that paired “male” highland polities with “female” societies on the coast. As documented at the time of the Spanish conquest, the alliance of highland and lowland communities was understood in terms of the union between male and female wak’as or sacred beings and their respective social groups. In fact, our recent research in Jequetepeque strongly suggests that the coast may have been religiously incorporated into the Wari Empire as the female counterpart to a male polity based in the mountains. In the end, the lecture provides a case-study of how archaeologists can investigate architectural remains to interpret the effects of imperial projects on everyday life and gender relations.

Ed Swenson September 28 2019

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