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The Archaeology of Wak'as

Explorations of the Sacred in the Pre-Columbian Andes

edited by Tamara L. Bray

Paperback Price $39.95
Ebook Price $31.95
30-day ebook rental price $9.99

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"This stimulating volume will prove essential reading for scholars interested in Andean religion and political history. . . . It will become one of the most important sources for the study of Andean materialities and religious practices."
—Edward R. Swenson, University of Toronto

"The Archaeology of Wak’as offers the most clear and insightful exploration of Andean ontologies and notions of the sacred that I have read thus far. The edited volume is masterfully organized and exemplifies current theoretical trends in anthropology. . . . this book belongs on the shelves of any scholar interested in pre-Columbian religion and symbolism."
"[T]he most important advance in decades in our understanding of what is known in the West as 'religion' among precolumbian societies of the Andes. . . . an exceptionally important and groundbreaking volume. It will be a standard work for students of Inka and Andean religions for many years to come."

Latin American Antiquity

"[T]he organizational form of the book is exactly what an edited volume should be. Bray has selected an important and well-defined topic and passed it through a prism of diverse scholarly positions; the resulting essays proffer new understandings on the archaeology of wak’as in the Andes."
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


In this edited volume, Andean wak'as—idols, statues, sacred places, images, and oratories—play a central role in understanding Andean social philosophies, cosmologies, materialities, temporalities, and constructions of personhood. Top Andean scholars from a variety of disciplines cross regional, theoretical, and material boundaries in their chapters, offering innovative methods and theoretical frameworks for interpreting the cultural particulars of Andean ontologies and notions of the sacred.

Wak'as were understood as agentive, nonhuman persons within many Andean communities and were fundamental to conceptions of place, alimentation, fertility, identity, and memory and the political construction of ecology and life cycles. The ethnohistoric record indicates that wak'as were thought to speak, hear, and communicate, both among themselves and with humans. In their capacity as nonhuman persons, they shared familial relations with members of the community, for instance, young women were wed to local wak'as made of stone and wak'as had sons and daughters who were identified as the mummified remains of the community's revered ancestors.

Integrating linguistic, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and archaeological data, The Archaeology of Wak'as advances our understanding of the nature and culture of wak'as and contributes to the larger theoretical discussions on the meaning and role of "the sacred" in ancient contexts.

Contributors: Catherine J. Allen, Tamara L. Bray, Zachary J. Chase,  Anita G. Cook, Carolyn Dean, John W. Janusek, Steve Kosiba, Krzysztof Makowski, Bruce Mannheim, Colin McEwan, Frank M. Meddens, Guillermo Salas Carreño, John R. Topic


Tamara L. Bray is professor of anthropology and director of the Gordon L. Grosscup Museum of Anthropology at Wayne State University. She was named a Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year in 2013.

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  • Paperback Price: $39.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-731-8
  • Ebook Price: $31.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $9.99
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-318-1
  • Publication Month: February
  • Publication Year: 2015
  • Pages: 336
  • Illustrations: 73
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Tamara L. Bray
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-317-4
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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