Fernandez/Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Sources of Power Among Mapuche (Araucanian) Chiefdoms in South Central Chile (A.D. 1300-1900)


Grants and Contracts Details


Under the direction of Dr. Tom D. Dillehay, Mr. Ricardo Fernandez will collect data for his doctoral dissertation. He will survey and conduct limited excavations in the Palguin River Valley, a small locale in south-central Chile. The purpose of this investigation is to locate and recover the archaeological signatures for the emergence and development of prehistoric power and authority among the Mapuche people during the period from A.D. 1500 to 1900. The Mapuche, or Araucanians, are virtually unique in the New World for their long and successful resistance to foreign invasion. From the early 1500s to the 1880s, the Mapuche not only managed to resist the advance of Inka, Spanish, and Chilean armies, but actually expanded their own influence over large areas of Argentina. Moreover, this period witnessed the development of an independent, culturally thriving Mapuche political entity. Concomitantly, this period was characterized by powerful, wealthy chiefs rising to and consolidating their power. Recent investigations suggest that in pre-industrial societies, chiefly political power could be obtained from military, economic, and/or ideological sources. The Palguin valley, an area of approximately 30 km, offers an excellent opportunity for investigating the archaeological signatures of chiefly power and authority. Ethnohistorical documents and preliminary archaeological investigations suggest that in this small locale, some local Mapuche chiefs achieved their powerful positions as war leaders, others as ritual administrators, and others as promoters and beneficiaries of intense commerce and trade. Not yet known are the timing and circumstances of these individuals' rise to power. To investigate these issues, an archaeological survey of the valley will be executed, combined with a surface collection of artifacts and limited excavations of selected sites. It is expected that this will result in the location and dating of mounds, associated ceremonial fields, and elite burials, bearing the marks of ideological sources of power. Likewise, it will result in the identification and dating of forts, look-outs, and perhaps mortuary evidence of military sources. Furthermore, it will document the statistically significant differential distribution of exotic and other prestige materials in both domestic and burial contexts, suggesting the use of economic sources of power. In addition, the temporal and contextual evidence for the use of these sources of power will be revealed. This will demand comparing and contrasting archaeological evidence to ethnohistorical and ethnographic data, as well as precise radiocarbon and thermoluminiscence dating. Eventually, this will suggest when chiefs began to obtain power and authority, how this process developed, what the sources of power were, and under what circumstances were they selected, combined, or abandoned. Besides illuminating the emergence and development of chiefly power and authority at the local level, this study may reveal the broader circumstances under which Mapuche political authority and power developed in similar areas throughout south-central Chile. At a more general level, this research will allow anthropologists and ethnohistorians to gain a better understanding of similar processes that may have been at work in prehistoric and early historic intermediate-level societies elsewhere in the Americas.
Effective start/end date11/15/024/30/05


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