The Utilitarian and Ritual Applications of Volcanic Ash in Ancient Ecuador
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While the majority of studies on volcanic ash in Ecuadorian archaeology are focused on tephrochronology or regional abandonment, there has yet to be a study conducted on the different technical and ritual applications of volcanic ash. Volcanic ash has a great deal of unique chemical and physical properties that make it ideal for a wide variety of technical uses. These same properties make volcanic ash useful for a number of analyses that can yield clues to ancient technical knowledge, areas of influence, and systems of exchange. As a distinctive byproduct closely associated with devastating volcanic eruptions, volcanic ash held great symbolic significance and was used for many ritual applications as well. The ways in which ash was used in these ritual settings can yield clues to ancient conceptions of volcanos and the intricacies of human-volcano relationships. Because volcanic ash was used by various cultures for different purposes, archaeological remains of these uses can serve as culturally and temporally diagnostic markers in the archaeological record. This thesis seeks to catalog these different uses so that they might serve as a reference for other researchers examining volcanic ash features and to discuss them in such a way that it might better our understanding of the complicated relationship ancient people had with these most imposing features of the landscape.