Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

James Cordova

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Annette de Stecher


Inka mummies have been researched extensively from a bioarchaeological perspective, but this research has objectified the body when its purpose in Inka society was social and symbolic. This thesis argues that mummified ancestral remains in the Andes entered the dynamic field of material culture, in which they symbolized and ordered social organization and genealogical collective memory. For the Inka, symbolism was constructed and contextualized through placement and preparation of the body, as well as associated funerary material culture. Each of these elements encoded the body with layers of meaning. This thesis examines the construction of these layers through a study of the social and cosmological organization of the Inka Empire, the built and natural funerary environments, and the ritual and physical treatment of the body. Its decolonial art-historical approach focuses especially on material agency, materiality, and the role of things in the construction of Inka culture, thereby complicating art history’s canonical epistemology and challenging the manner in which it has traditionally treated Andean visual and material culture. This thesis suggests an alternative means by which to study Inka funerary material culture; specifically one that takes Andean epistemology and ontology into account.