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“Let’s Drink Together”: Early Ceremonial use of Maize in the Titicaca Basin

  • Amanda L. Logan (a1), Christine A. Hastorf (a2) and Deborah M. Pearsall (a3)

Abstract

Since the Formative times, maize is and has been a highly valued social commodity in the Andes, particularly in the form of a traditional beer called chicha. While chicha production is well attested in the archaeology and ethnohistory of Andean states, the emergence of maize symbolism in earlier societies has not been systematically addressed. In this study phytolith and starch grain analyses are used to trace production, processing, and consumption of maize at sites on the Taraco Peninsula of Bolivia and thus the entrance of maize into the region. We systematically examine the role of maize by addressing its rarity, use contexts, and preparation. The pattern of plant part representation and use suggest that maize was being consumed in the form of chicha at its earliest introduction to the Titicaca Basin (800–250 B.C.). Drinking of alcohol in ceremonial spaces embodies the process of commensality of public ceremony and the establishment of reciprocal relationships during the Formative period. These results demonstrate that contextual analysis of microbotanical remains has great potential to answer anthropological questions surrounding food, ritual, and identity.

El maíz ha sido y sigue siendo un producto altamente valorado en los Andes, particularmente en la forma tradicional de cerveza conocida como chicha. Aunque la producción de chicha está bien documentada en la arqueología y la etnohistoria de los estados andinos, la emergencia de un simbolismo relacionado al maíz en las sociedades anteriores no ha sido sistemáticamente investigada. En el presente estudio, los análisis de fitolitos y gránulos de almidón son utilizados para entender la producción, el procesamiento y el consumo del maíz en los sitios bolivianos de la Península de Taraco. El rol del maíz es examinado sistemáticamente a través de su rareza, sus contextos de uso y su preparación. En los contextos arqueológicos, la representación y el uso de las diferentes partes de la planta sugieren que el maíz ha sido consumido en forma de chicha desde su introducción en la cuenca del Titicaca (800–250 a.C.). El consumo de alcohol en espacios ceremoniales representa el proceso de formalización de las ceremonias públicas y el establecimiento de relaciones sociales recíprocas durante el período Formativo. Estos resultados demuestran que el análisis contextual de los restos microbotánicos tiene un gran potencial para responder a las interrogantes antropológicas acerca de la comida, los ritos y la identidad.

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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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