What is this research about?
Tiwanaku, a site in the Southern Lake Titicaca Basin (Bolivia), emerged as an urban centre with political and economic influence throughout the region at the end of the Late Formative Period (200 BC - 450 A.D.). Along with new political structures and regional integration of previously independent settlements, new forms of crafting practice and uses for ceramic vessels emerged. The study of ceramic making and the changes in ceramic attributes indicate changes in embodied knowledge of particular participants and their relationships within potting communities of practice. A potting community of practice consists of various people who learn the skills of potter making and identify specifically as craft producers. The purpose of this research is to explore how the change in power relationships during periods of social and economic change affected learning in potting communities of practice in the Lake Titicaca Basin.
What did the researchers do?
The researcher uses two strategies in his analysis. The first strategy is called juxtaposition, which consists of comparing the material traces of learning and the social and political dynamics across varying spaces and scales of potting practice in both the Late Formative community on the Taraco Peninsula and the 21st-century community of Chijipata Alta. His second strategy draws on several theoretical concepts that provide ways to trace how individuals acquired ceramic making skills and the particular power relationships associated with these processes.
What did the researchers find?
The researcher found that:
- The practices of ceramic making seen in the Late Formative Taraco Peninsula and Chijipata Alta contribute to and reflect political and economic processes. For example, in the Late Formative Taraco Peninsula, larger societal structural changes led to changes in the makeup of ceramics. In contrast, in the 21st-century a number of changes in educational policy, initiated by Bolivia’s President and local community leaders, may help sustain crafting practices in rural communities.
- The practices of ceramic making in the Late Formative Taraco Peninsula and Chijipata Alta spread to other regions and could have created new communities of practice. The practices from the Late Formative Taraco Peninsula likely spread via social events, intermarriage, and the movement of ceramics to different regions. Chijipata production techniques likely spread from mining sites (that contain the key ingredients for ceramics), weekly markets, and pottery fairs where potters can interact with people from outside of their communities.
How can you use this research?
This research will help researchers gain a better understanding of what it meant to live in the Late Formative period and define social networks that generated the later regional Tiwanaku political system. The analysis used in this research could be applied to study other communities of practice.