Gordon Ambrosino

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Andes, U. of the

Grant number

Gr. 9256

Approve Date

April 11, 2016

Project Title

Ambrosino, Gordon Robertson, U. de Los Andes, Bogota, Colombia - To aid research on 'Rock Art, Ancestors and Water: The Semiotic Construction of Landscapes in the PreHispanic, Central Andes,' supervised by Dr. Alexander Herrera

Preliminary abstract: As landscape art, rock art sits at the nexus of social and ecological landscapes, and offers clues regarding relationships between ancestor veneration and the negotiations between people about rights over water at strategic places of power. In the Pre-Hispanic Andes, the control of water was critical to the development of agropastoral civilization. Symbolically this was realized through the appropriation of ‘waka’, deified landscape features which were dramatically emplaced and figured prominently in segmentary, ancestor-bound political hierarchies. Rock art was often used as a means of appropriating waka and was thus active in constructing Pre-Hispanic landscapes. To prove this I re-evaluate the nature of agency of immobile art objects, by framing it in terms of movement, access, location, distribution and intention, and asking: Who was permitted to view specific rock art panels, and who did the creator of these panels have in mind as an audience? This is complemented by an eco-cultural semiotic model, designed to reveal relationships between cosmology, ecology and art. I apply these models to the Fortaleza Ignimbrite (FI), a stunning geologic formation situated at the headwaters of the Fortaleza and Santa Rivers (Ancash, Peru), 11,000-14,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, where to date I’ve identified 192 previously undocumented rock art sites, making it one of the highest concentrations ever recorded in Andean, high-mountain settings. To systematically assess the role of these sites in social change through time I employ systematic survey, GIS, direct-chronometric and relative dating, test excavations, and rich ethnohistoric accounts to produce a robust data set that will lastingly contribute to the advancement of anthropological landscape theory and rock art research.