Thursday, January 31, 2013

Different Cultures or the Same? Part I

Another problem we have with archaeology and anthropology is their nature of naming each city area a different name and culture. Often this is based upon style—style of architecture, of pottery, and of other artifacts. If pottery styles are different, then it is automatically assumed they came from different cultures, even if found in the same location. If architecture is different, the buildings were built by different cultures. Another factor is distance, even if ceramics or architecture is the same or similar, if the distance is beyond an attributed area to a culture then, again, it is a different culture.
Take Kuelap, as an example. It was built, like the Moche coastal pyramids, in stages as a series of platforms, one atop the other. However, to the scholar, these were two entirely different cultures. On the other hand, the Moche civilization is said to have begun during the fall of the Cupisnique era at about the time of Christ. Yet these two civilizations slowly merged into one, still named the Moche, after a river that flows into the ocean just south of Trujillo. Though the two cultures followed each other, there is no thought that they were a continuation of the same culture.
Left: Cupisnique culture clay architecture; Right: Chimu culture clay architecture at Chan Chan; Bottom: Sican culture clay and mud brick architecture too ruined to tell what similarities might exist—however, some comparisons suggest a connection which many scholars ignore
Yet, both the Moche and the Cupisnique existed along Peru’s Pacific coast, with the Cupisnique, according to Alana Cordy-Collins, flourishing from 1000 B.C. to about 200 B.C., which just so happens to be the same dates attributed to yet another culture, the Chavin. In addition, the Cupisnique had a distinctive style of adobe clay architecture but shared artistic styles and religious symbols with the later Chavin culture, which followed them. Yet, the relationship between Chavin and Cupisnique is not well understood, and the names are sometimes used interchangeably, though other scholars believe the Cupisnique developed separately from the Chavin.
Izumi Shimada thinks the Cupisnique were ancestors of Michica (Moche), with no connection to the Chavin, yet Anna C. Roosevelt refers to "the coastal manifestation of the Chavin Horizon dominated by the Cupisnique style." Some scholars believe the Cupisnique culture fell into powerful Chavin influence and was assimilated into it. The point is, there is no clear-cut determination in determining these separate cultures—it is merely guesswork based upon the individual scholar’s views and beliefs.
In the area that belongs to the Cupisnique culture and is demarcated by Virú and Lambayeque river valleys, there were, in ancient times, several ceremonial and population centers fitted out with monumental temple plains plus a great many smaller villages. Within the Cupisnique culture, it is claimed there was no uniform state—it was more a question of unity brought about by similar beliefs and art. Similar beliefs and art? Then what makes them different cultures? Why are they not considered to be the same people, simply with different art interests, abilities, or visions? Mostly, the Cupisnique have been set apart by the ceramic style archaeologists attribute to them.
To compound this even further, the Chavin, Tiwanaku, and the Chachapoyas, all of which, according to the scholars, are considered to be totally different cultures, even existing at different times, yet, all have at least one very distinctive thing in common and that is the use of carved heads along walls.
Top: Iconic carved stone heads on the walls of the pyramid at Chavin de Huantar, located 160 miles north of Lima, east of the Cordillera Blanca, in the Conchuycos Valley, about 850 B.C. to about 300 B.C.; Middle: Carved stone heads built into the temple wall at Tiwanaku, south of Lake Titicaca, around 500 B.C. to about 500 A.D.; Bottom Left: Carved head built into the wall at Gran Saposoa, located in the high Amazon jungles of Peru; Bottom Right: Head carved into the stone wall at Kuelap in northern Peru, believed to be the Chachapoyas culture
Were several of these cultures actually the same people as they progressed through the centuries, learning to do things differently, spreading into different areas, which required building with different natural resources available in new areas. Were these people learning better, more improved, or simply different artistic talents, abilities, form or design? The three ancient rock carved heads below were found at three different sites, all attributed to the Chachapoya, though the sites were scattered over a wide area. In fact, one of the sites, recently discovered La Meseta, in the upper Amazon on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains, which was considered far outside the previously believed Chachapoya culture geographical influence. Consequently, archaeologists believe the Chachapoya were hired to build that site, or might have been pressed into slave labor. For some reason, scholars never seem to consider they were the same people simply moving into other areas, or that all those northern Peru sites were settled by the same people.
Three more rock carved heads from various sites, all attributed to the Chachapoya culture, yet are in far flung areas
Another example is that the Chachapoya are renowned for their mountain-top citadels, such as Kuelap, Gran Pajaten and Vir Vira, all in northern Peru, yet the mountain-top citadels of Sacsayhuaman, Pisac, and Machu Picchu, to name a few, are not attributed to the Chachapoya.
Another oddity of archaeological and anthropological reasoning is that Ollantaytambo is considered a pre-Inca site, but Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu are considered to have been built by the Inca. Yet, all three sites have the unique massive rocks, perfectly carved and fitted, with protuberances, possibly used for movement of the large stones, and trapezoidal openings for doorways and window openings.
Top images of Machu Picchu and bottom images from Sacsayhuaman; Note the same sharp angle cuts and slightly bulged large stones on the left images, and the same cut stones perfectly fitted without mortar in the right photos. Both structures show the same artistic, engineering and design ability, yet Sacsayhuaman was built more than a thousand years before Machu Picchu is said to have been constructed, the former by a pre-Inca people, and the latter by the Inca
Left: Rock protuberances on stonework: Top Left: Cuzco; Right: Ollantaytambo; Bottom Left: Machu Picchu; Center: Ollaytaytambo; Right: Coriancha
Here is a strong example of similar and even identical construction built over widely different periods, yet attributed to the same people, or in some cases, to different people.
(See the next post, Different Cultures or the Same? Part II, for more information showing how so-called different cultures may, in fact, have been one, or only a few, groups of people)

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