Integrating Mythological, Archaeological, and Linguistic Approaches to Understand Complementary Oppositional Structures of the Spondylus Exchange System

Garvin, Arianna, Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, University of Virginia
Garvin, Arianna, Arts & Sciences Undergraduate-gasu, University of Virginia

This paper attempts to integrate mythological, archaeological, and linguistic evidence to understand complementary oppositional structures of the Spondylus exchange system. The warm-water bivalve, Spondylus, was a prestige item involved in a complex system of exchange that included the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coastal and highland areas throughout pre-Columbian history, gradually losing its significance with the Spanish conquest. Roy Wagner’s technique of obviation was applied to the Andean myth of Paria Caca of The Huarochirí Manuscript [1991 (1600)]. The obviation diagram of the myth was used to interpret archaeological and linguistic material surrounding Spondylus and the exchange system that it was involved in, and the synthesis of material led to the discovery that the structural transformations in the myth of Paria Caca parallel the transformations of the Spondylus exchange system. In conclusion, this paper argues that the mythological, archaeological, and linguistic evidence on the Spondylus exchange system supports Gary Urton’s assertion that “social and political relations within Andean communities tend overwhelmingly to operate on the basis of complementary asymmetric dualism,” a dualism that is “grounded in complementary oppositions” (2012: 323, 324).

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
Spondylus , Complementary opposition , Andean exchange , Peru, Structural anthropology
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