Latin American Archaeology

Household Life in Prehispanic Bolivia


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Village sites of the Formative Period (1500 BC - AD 400) Wankarani culture of Bolivia appear as mounds made up of the accumulation of hundreds of years of house remains, domestic refuse, and the gray ash of cooking fires. Some mounds stand as high as 8 meters.

The Wankarani Complex represents one of the earliest village and pottery-using populations of Bolivia.

Marc Bermann
1993 Jachakala: A New Archaeological Complex of the Department of Oruro, Bolivia. Annals of Carnegie Museum 62(4):311-340.

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Circular house of Formative Period Wankarani Culture.

All complex polities possess vertical integration: relationships and processes that link constituent households to the political center and its ruling institutions. Understanding this vertical integration requires discovering the ‘minimal activities, beliefs, relationships and institutions,” that link societal components (Shils 1982:8). From the household perspective, these integrative ties may vary in nature, intensity, and degree of directness.

Marc Bermann, 1997 Domestic Life and Vertical Integration in the Tiwanaku Heartland. Latin American Antiquity 8(3):93-112.

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Carved stone llama heads at the museum in Oruro, Bolivia. At the site of Uspa-Uspa, stone llama heads were found both on house floors and grouped together in caches outside the houses.

Marc Bermann and Jose Estevez Castillo
1995 Domestic Artifact Assemblages and Ritual Activities in the Bolivian Formative. Journal of Field Archaeology 22:389-398.

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The “Face of Chuquina.” A carved wooden spoon handle of the Wankarani culture, approx. 800 BC.