Ancestor Images in the Andes

  • George F. Lau

In this chapter, I emphasize the kinds of social interaction that material expressions of ancestors enable, encourage or organize. For this, it is useful to consider Gell’s contention (1998: 20) that artworks are purposeful extensions, or agents, of people. Artworks are “persons” not in the biological, organismal sense, but from their role in mediating social relations. An object can actively shape interactions or initiate “causal sequences” (Gell 1998: 16) between its makers, users, patrons, audience, and indeed, itself—i.e., exert agency. The metaphor between artworks and persons deserves consideration here because many Andean ancestor effigies acted for and assumed the image of people. I contend that ancient Andean ancestors were like “persons”. This is precisely because, as objects of veneration, Andean effigies enabled crucial physical interactions between people and divinities.

Three general questions guide this discussion:

  • What were some of the principal forms of Andean ancestor effigies?

  • Where do we find ancestor effigies and their veneration?

  • And perhaps most important, what did ancestor images do?


Central Coast Colonial Time Cult Image Ancestral Spirit Andean Civilization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • George F. Lau
    • 1
  1. 1.Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the AmericasUniversity of East AngliaUK

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