Amergraph baner

A Graphic Communication System Of The Prehispanic Central Andean Highlands

The subproject focuses on the graphic communication system (GCS) of the Tiwanaku polity (ca. AD 600-1000) as a system that combines elements with very different communicative potential. Since Arthur Posnansky’s (1945, 1952) work, researchers have examined theories about writing or iconography with varying degrees of success. It is becoming more and more clear that the Tiwanaku GCS cannot be sufficiently summarized within these traditional modes and that it can be better understood using semasiographic principles (Jackson 2013; Mikulska 2015).

The aim of the subproject is to define, at the formal and structural level, which methods of depiction in the Tiwanaku GCS are used to create meaning. Therefore, rather than either addressing it in terms of being either scenic and narrative in character (Viau-Courville 2014: 19) or as conventionalized symmetrical motifs emphasizing various sets of anthropomorphic and ornithomorphic personages which are often at odds with realism (Makowski 2001a, b) the project targets a third possibility, that understands the Tiwanaku GCS as a composite system with incongruent components, which are combined, disassembled and recombined to create nuances of meaning. In this research, Tiwanaku GCS is considered as operating with at least two different categories of pictures, i.e. small-scale graphs and scenes. Such areas belong to what scholars of visual culture regard as the “domain of images” (Elkins 1999) as, despite their semasiographic nature, the scenes in question are not full pictures and, on the other hand, small-scale graphs are not non-figural signs.

As the subproject aims to reveal meanings and detect the inner logic in the Tiwanaku GCS, it seeks the identification of the depicted elements and the nature of their structure. A related premise is that scenes and small-scale graphs are comprehensible in themselves. By this, and based on the assumption that the Tiwanaku GCS is not to record speech, the subproject will test existing interpretations of Tiwanaku GCS and contribute to the discussion on what information can be conveyed by images.

List of institutions/organizations that are involved in the subproject:

  • Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Institute for
  • Comparative Cultural Research at Philips-Universität Marburg
  • Ethnologisches Museum Berlin
  • Iberoamerikanisches Institut Berlin
  • Grassi-Museum, Leipzig
  • BASA-Museum, University Bonn.

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