Craft Production as an Empowering Strategy in an Emerging Empire

Donna J. Nash
2019 Journal of Anthropological Research  
The activities associated with palaces provide clues to understanding the strategies leaders in prehistoric polities used to accrue power. Controlling craft specialists who make prestige goods is one such tactic. Many models presume preciosities were distributed to build alliances or for exchange; however, some objects may be imbued with sacred power. These singular goods would have a different distribution than prestige goods. The relations of production may also differ; elites, rather than
more » ... ached specialists, may have produced singular objects as an empowering strategy. I propose that some elites in the Wari Empire (600-1000 ce) made elaborate pottery, some of which were sacred goods essential for the performance of rituals, in order to exclude others from this important source of power. To support this hypothesis, I describe the regional distribution of decorated pottery, the manner of its deposition, and evidence that elites created ceramic vessels in a Wari provincial palace at Cerro Baúl, Peru. The activities associated with palaces provide clues to understanding the strategies leaders in prehistoric polities used to accrue power. Controlling craft specialists who make prestige goods is one such tactic. Many models presume preciosities were distributed to build alliances or for exchange; however, some objects may be imbued with sacred power. These singular goods would have a different distribution than prestige goods. The relations of production may also differ; elites, rather than attached specialists, may have produced singular objects as an empowering strategy. I propose that some elites in the Wari Empire (600-1000 ce) made elaborate pottery, some of which were sacred goods essential for the performance of rituals, in order to exclude others from this important source of power. To support this hypothesis, I describe the regional distribution of decorated pottery, the manner of its deposition, and evidence that elites created ceramic vessels in a Wari provincial palace at Cerro Baúl, Peru.
doi:10.1086/704144 fatcat:libppalzpvgn3etj7rbzxdgwcy