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University of Iowa News Release


April 13, 2011

'Andean Expressions' will be available from the UI Press April 16, 2011

"Andean Expressions: Art and Archaeology of the Recuay Culture" by George F. Lau will become available April 16 from the University of Iowa Press.

Flourishing during the first seven centuries of the common era, the Recuay inhabited lands in northern Peru just below the imposing glaciers of the highest mountain chain in the tropics. Thriving on an economy of high-altitude crops and camelid herding, they left behind finely made artworks and grand palatial buildings with an unprecedented aesthetic and a high degree of technical sophistication.

In this first in-depth study of these peoples, Lau situates the Recuay within the great diversification of cultural styles associated with the Early Intermediate Period, provides new and significant evidence to evaluate models of social complexity, and offers fresh theories about life, settlement, art and cosmology in the high Andes.

He analyzes the rise and decline of Recuay groups as well as their special interactions with the Andean landscape. Their coherence was expressed as shared culture, community and corporate identity, but Lau also reveals its diversity through time and space in order to challenge monolithic characterizations of Recuay society.

Many of the innovations in Recuay culture left a lasting impact on Andean history and continue to have relevance today. The author highlights the ways that material things intervened in ancient social and political life, rather than being merely passive reflections of historical change, to show that Recuay public art, exchange, technological innovations, warfare and religion offer key insights into the emergence of social hierarchy and chiefly leadership and the formation, interaction and later dissolution of large discrete polities.

By presenting Recuay artifacts as fundamentally social in the sense of creating and negotiating relations among persons, places and things, he recognizes in the complexities of the past an enduring order and intelligence that shape the contours of history.

Helaine Silverman of the University of Illinois commented, “Notwithstanding its renowned art style, ancient Recuay society has received scant field-based investigation until now. George Lau’s study is pioneering in its comprehensive description, interpretation, and theorization of Recuay, integrating the limited data of earlier archaeologists with the results of his own systematic and intensive research program in the Recuay heartland.

"Covering environment and settlement patterns, architecture, ritual and vernacular life, textiles, pottery and stone sculpture, chronology, mortuary practices, and sociopolitical organization, Lau's volume provides a richly contextualized, state-of-the-art account of Recuay prehistory and sets the agenda for necessary new work on this fascinating society."

Lau is a university lecturer at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas in the School of World Art Studies and Museology at University of East Anglia. He has done fieldwork in highland Peru since 1995. Currently one of the editors of World Art, he is also the author of the forthcoming "Ancient Community and Economy at Chinchawas (Ancash, Peru)."

"Andean Expressions" will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: UI Press: Winston Barclay, UI News Services,