ABSTRACT

Around 400 BC, villagers at the archaeological site of Chiripa, located along the southern shore of Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca, began to expand an earthen platform that visually dominated their settlement. Atop this platform, they erected a compound of fourteen interconnected, stone and adobe chambers arranged around a sunken court. The construction of such large-scale monuments is usually considered a hallmark of complex societies. Monumental architecture entails both an investment of labor drawn from many households and the materialization of social institutions and their ideologies of power. The labor demands of such works, together with the cultural negotiations required to build them upon communal land, refl ects the success of individual leaders or groups at forging bonds that cross factional lines. Their scale is also a material symbol of power and thus can shape as well as refl ect the social fabric. Monuments and other public works may justify or reinforce the status of particular individuals associated with their construction or use. Even desecrated, defaced monuments can continue to shape interaction, legitimizing the rejection of one social order and the acceptance or imposition of another.