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The Integrative Role of the Middle Sicán Ancestor Veneration Cult, Northern North Coast of Peru (AD 950-1100)

Go Matsumoto, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Junior Fellow 2012/13

My dissertation research focuses on the inferred ancestor veneration practices in the Middle Sicán society (AD 950-1100) on the Peruvian North Coast. The excavations at the ceremonial core of the Middle Sicán state capital in the mid-La Leche Valley, which consists of major ceremonial mounds and a large rectangular plaza, revealed material traces of multiple activities in and around the plaza. These activities included burying and caring for the deceased, metal production at a workshop, chicha pouring into a ritual canal, and large-scale food preparation and consumption. Emphasizing the contemporaneity and proximity among these activities within the plaza and drawing upon the results of material analyses, I argue that the Sicán elites hosted feasts on the occasion of the commemoration of their dead and/or their original interment at the Great Plaza. The feasts brought together people of different geographical origin, social class, and even cultural affiliation. The commensality during the feasts among the dead and the living served to consolidate the stratified and multiethnic Sicán society.

While at Dumbarton Oaks, I wrote rough drafts of four chapters of my dissertation. I also presented two papers at conferences and gave a public lecture at the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington D.C. The library resources were beneficial for the literature review undertaken for the theory chapters of my dissertation. Daily conversations with other fellows and visitors inspired me in many respects and resulted in a plan to organize a symposium on Andean plazas at the upcoming SAA meeting in Austin, TX.

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