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In the Aftermath of Violence: Andean Stones and the Heroics of Small Construction Details

Stella Nair, University of California, Los Angeles

Wed, 3/25 · 4:30 pm-6:00 pm · 106 McCormick

Department of Art and Archaeology and Heritage Structures Lab
Image collage of structures in the Andean desert

Located in the wind swept plains of the high Andean desert, the architectural remains of Tiahuanaco have captivated visitors for centuries. The Incas are reported to have been so impressed by Tiahuanaco masonry that they used it as a model for their state buildings, such as the impressive granite structures at the royal estate of Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, intentional destruction of Tiahuanaco followed by centuries of neglect and decades of problematic reconstructions have hampered our ability to study Tiahuanaco design and construction. The result is that no extant buildings survive. Instead, scattered andesite and sandstone blocks mark the once prestigious urban center. In this talk, Nair will examine how small construction details on these exquisitely carved stone fragments can provide critical clues into understanding Tiahuanaco architecture and its relationship to that of the Inca. In doing so, Nair demonstrates not only how conservators can use these details to understand building heritage, but also highlights the vital need for constraint in building conservation practices, as these small but critical construction details are not only easily overlooked, but also easily destroyed during reconstruction efforts.

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