Animating Idolatry: Making ancestral kin and personhood in ancient Peru

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Historical and archaeological records help shed light on the production, ritual practices, and personhood of cult objects characterizing the central Peruvian highlands after ca. AD 200. Colonial accounts indicate that descendant groups made and venerated stone images of esteemed forebears as part of small-scale local funerary cults. Prayers and supplications help illuminate how different artifact forms were seen as honored family members (forebears, elders, parents, siblings). Archaeology, meanwhile, shows the close associations between carved monoliths, tomb repositories, and restricted cult spaces. The converging lines of evidence are consistent with the hypothesis that production of stone images was the purview of family/lineage groups. As the cynosures of cult activity and devotion, the physical forms of ancestor effigies enabled continued physical engagements, which vitalized both the idol and descendant group.
Original languageEnglish
Article number287
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Early online date21 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • funerary cult
  • Central Andes
  • materiality of stone
  • animacy
  • Pre-Columbian
  • Recuay
  • cult objects
  • Ancash
  • Quechua
  • death practices
  • Cajatambo

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