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Rock Art, Water, and Ancestors

The semiotic construction of a sacred landscape in the central Andes (1800 BCE - CE 1820)

Gordon Ambrosino
Publication Year:
296 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 39 tables, 320 figures, 9 maps, 4 graphs
Sub-series name:
Archaeology of Prehistoric Art, 2
BAR number:


As landscape art, the rock art of the central Andes offers clues regarding relationships between ancestor veneration and the negotiation of rights to water. To understand these relationships this book focuses on a large complement of rock art situated in highland Ancash, Peru, (3400 - 4250 m.a.s.l.). Regional survey excavation data from key rock art sites are synthesised to identify diachronic changes in imagery, production techniques and location, and to develop a typology and a spatio-temporal map for the rock art of the region that spans nearly 4,000 years (1800 BCE - CE 1820). These data are paired with 17th century Spanish Colonial accounts to trace back in time when specific, named groups socialised this landscape. A semiotic model, informed by interdisciplinary approaches, is applied to answer questions regarding the agency of these rock art places in socialising the land through establishing ancestral relations to water and rock features.

Gordon Ambrosino is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His research integrates the fields of the anthropology of art, art history, archaeology, and semiotics. It relates to questions regarding the efficacy of art and iconography in constructing social landscapes and in transmitting location-based histories.

'Gordon Ambrosino offers the most in-depth and methodologically sophisticated study yet produced for a set of important rock art sites in the central Andes, complemented by a rich and illuminating theoretical perspective.' Dr Darryl Wilkinson, Dartmouth College.

‘This research adds new data to the discussion and knowledge of Peruvian rock art.’ Dr Andrés Troncoso, Universidad de Chile.

Table of Contents (S2969_9781407356624_ToC.pdf, 170 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2969_Ambrosino_9781407356624_Introduction.pdf, 9,770 Kb) [Download]