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Pre-Hispanic Political Change and the Role of Maize in the Central Andes of Peru

Christine A. Hastorf and Sissel Johannessen
American Anthropologist
New Series, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Mar., 1993), pp. 115-138
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/681182
Page Count: 24
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Pre-Hispanic Political Change and the Role of Maize in the Central Andes of Peru
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Abstract

While archeologists have the capacity to track changing food use in the archeological record, they have not tended to use food systems in the study of social and political change. To do so, an awareness must be gained of the meanings of foods, which then can illuminate the strategic use of a particular food in the creation of relationships of dependence and prestige. Archeological evidence from the central Andes of Peru indicates that the role of maize changed between A.D. 500 and 1500, shifting from a culinary item, simply prepared by boiling, to a more complex symbolic food, transformed through grinding and brewing into beer, with elaborated political meanings. This change in maize processing and consumption occurred at a time of heightened political and social tensions. We propose that the shift in maize use reflected and participated in new political dynamics, demonstrating how foodways can inform archeologists about past social and political systems.

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