Written by a pioneer of archaeological theory, this account of an Early Formative village in Northwest Argentina offers a new model for the site report that illustrates how the fieldwork experience shapes the production of archaeological knowledge.
Series: William and Bettye Nowlin Endowment, Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere
Around 400 BCE, inhabitants of the Southern Andes took up a sedentary lifestyle that included the practice of agriculture. Settlements were generally solitary or clustered structures with walled agricultural fields and animal corrals, and the first small villages appeared in some regions. Surprisingly, people were also producing and circulating exotic goods: polychrome ceramics, copper and gold ornaments, bronze bracelets and bells. To investigate the apparent contradiction between a lack of social complexity and the broad circulation of elaborated goods, archaeologist Joan Gero co-directed a binational project to excavate the site of Yutopian, an unusually well-preserved Early Formative village in the mountains of Northwest Argentina.
In Yutopian, Gero describes how archaeologists from the United States and Argentina worked with local residents to uncover the lifeways of the earliest sedentary people of the region. Gero foregounds many experiential aspects of archaeological fieldwork that are usually omitted in the archaeological literature: the tedious labor and constraints of time and personnel, the emotional landscape, the intimate ethnographic settings and Andean people, the socio-politics, the difficult decisions and, especially, the role that ambiguity plays in determining archaeological meanings. Gero’s unique approach offers a new model for the site report as she masterfully demonstrates how the decisions made in conducting any scientific undertaking play a fundamental role in shaping the knowledge produced in that project.
List of Figures
List of Tables
2. Framework: Knowledge production at Yutopian
3. Framework: Ambiguity and the lust for certitude
4. Narrative: Project origins in a British steak dinner
5. Socio-politics: Finding Northwest Argentina
6. Narrative: Archaeologists and lugareños meet at Yutopian
7. Backstory: Chronology in Northwest Argentina
8. Argument: Ceramic sequences and social processes
9. Narrative: Why excavate at Yutopian?
10. Socio-politics: Should North American archaeologists dig in Argentina?
Starting to Dig
11. Argument: The positionality of practice
12. Episode: Digging test pits
13. Raw data: What the test pits told us
14. Narrative: The incredible Pozo de Prueba 18
15. Episode: Extending test pit excavations
16. Andean ways: Inadvertent human remains
17. Episode: Opening Estructura Uno
18. Raw data: Inventory of artifact counts and special finds from Units 300, 301 and 302
19. Narrative: Emotional moments
20. Andean ways: The rodeo
21. Argument: Excavation forms
22. Narrative: Coming and going
23. Episode: Expectations and excavations in Estructura Dos
24. Narrative: Los Hermanos
25. Raw data: Inventory of special finds from Estructura Dos
26. Narrative: Why was Estructura Dos disappointing?
27. Backstory: Why live in a semi-subterranean house?
28. Episode: Excavating Estructura Uno
29. Descriptive data: A tour of the occupation floor of Estructura Uno
30. Raw data: Inventory of special and general finds from Estructura Uno, Units 303–306
31. Major ambiguity: Metallurgy in the house?
32. Argument: How the gendered household works
33. Andean ways: Buy the cage and get the chicken
34. Episode: Analysis in the field
35. Narrative: Arrivals, decisions, decisions!
36. Backstory: Andean ethnobotany and flotation at Yutopian
37. Episode: Excavating Estructura Tres
38. Raw data: Inventory of special finds from Estructura Tres
39. Narrative: The peculiar pits of Estructura Tres
40. Andean ways: Honoring Pachamama
Interpreting Núcleo Uno
41. Episode: Exploring Núcleo Uno's shared patio
42. Descriptive data: The square feature in the round patio
43. Descriptive data: The entranceways of Núcleo Uno
44. Narrative: The life history of Núcleo Uno
45. Cooking data: Changing patterns of lithic consumption in Núcleo Uno: Chalcedony and obsidian
46. Narrative: How unique is Núcleo Uno at Yutopian?
47. Backstory: How unique is Núcleo Uno in the world?
Estructura Once and the Issue of Remodeling Houses
48. Episode: The call of Estructura Once
49. Andean ways: Eating quirquincho (armadillo)
50. Raw data: Diagnostic ceramics by level from Estructura Once
51. Descriptive data: Remodeling and repositioning the doorways
52. Narrative: What did we learn from Estructura Once?
53. Backstory: What about the saucer-shaped house floors?
54. Episode: Pozos de Prueba 12 and 12a
55. Episode: Opening up Estructura Cuatro (1996)
56. Data in two modalities: The tri-lobate hearth
57. Descriptive data: The hearth occupation level in Estructura Cuatro
58. Narrative: Last day fervor in Estructura Cuatro
59. Socio-politics: Good-byes
60. Episode: Estructura Cuatro excavations in 1998: The lower occupation
61. Raw data: Inventory of special finds from Estructura Cuatro
62. Descriptive data: The cache pit
63. Andean ways: Chañar drinks
Looking for Núcleo Dos
64. Narrative: Where was Estructura Cuatro's entranceway?
65. Episode: Searching for Cinco and Núcleo Dos
66. Raw Data: Inventory of special finds from Estructura Cinco
67. Narrative: Radical remodeling in Núcleo Dos
68. Argument: Ritual and quotidian
69. Narrative: A lab for all reasons
70. Socio-politics: Yutopian in the community
Understanding Yutopian as an Early Formative Settlement
71. Raw data: Comparative characteristics of Yutopian structures
72. Raw data: Radiocarbon chronology
73. Narrative: The Formative settlement at Yutopian
74. Backstory: Plazas and a "public"
75. Argument: Yutopian's boundaries and the site map
76. Socio-politics: Why Yutopian has so little Formative context
77. Narrative: Entranceway ideologies
78. Andean ways: Water management at Yutopian
Data from the Experts
79. Data from the experts: Agricultural practices at Yutopian (with Jack Rossen)
80. Data from the experts: Plants and diet, now and then (with Jack Rossen)
81. Data from the experts: Phytolith facts
82. Data from the experts: Faunal remains (with Andrés Izeta)
83. Data from the experts: Ceramic forms and designs (with M. Fabiana Bugliani)
84. Cooking data: Chalcedony and obsidian, part 2
85. Data: Stone tools from other angles
86. Data: Cross-mends and what they tell us
87. Data: Beads and spindle whorls
Cardonal by Comparison
88. Narrative: The "other" Early Formative site: Cardonal
89. Argument: Testing archaeology and its methods
90. Socio-politics: Traveling to Cardonal
91. Episode: A short field season testing Cardonal house structures
92. Raw data: Special finds from the 2004 Cardonal field season
93. Socio-politics: North-South collaborations in archaeology
94. Backstory: Grinding stones (conanas, cutanas, morteros) and the holes in them
95. Episode: Later work at Cardonal
96. Andean ways: Llama caravans and long-distance exchange
97. Narrative: Cardonal and Yutopian
Wrap-Ups and Postscripts
98. Wrap-up: Putting the project to bed
99. Postscript: Early Formative society: Where's the monumental?
100. Follow-through: References cited
“...Gero has produced a fascinating and highly original volume…”
Latin American Antiquity
“Unlike any monograph I have ever read, it is truly interesting beyond its summary of findings. Each time I pick it up, I find it hard to put down….It is entirely unique.”
Vice-president of World Archaeological Congress (WAC)
“A beautifully written, honest, and intriguing account . . . [that] presents the totality, the all of an archaeological experience, as much as is possible in a written text.”
Benjamin Alberti, Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Framingham State University
“A necessary reference for everyone interested in the pre-Hispanic history of the Southern Andes . . . [and] an original and important contribution to archaeological theory and practice in general.”
Axel Nielsen, Investigador Principal, CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas), Argentina
The Vice-president of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), Anne Pyburn, and President, Koji Mizoguchi, deliver a final announcement, the creation of the Joan Gero Book Award, and closing comments to the WAC-8.