Architecture, or the Sociology of the Monumental 109
assumes economic inconsistencies to be the basis of social structure, or like the
action theory that assumes society is based on individual actors –, the premise of
this discussion of the effect of monumental architecture is as follows.
Every social meaning (including economic and political inequalities, which
are often the focus when monumental architectures are discussed) is culturally or
symbolically produced, and shifts are always possible – transformations of soci-
eties in the medium of symbolic, meaningful artifacts
its social and political
After 1200 CE, the Mixteca Alta region reached its peak in terms of number
of settlements and estimated population. It became one of Mesoamerica’s largest
and wealthiest economies, and it is estimated that during this time Coixtlahuaca
occupied an area of at least 30 km² as shown by the latest archaeological surveys of
the area (Spores/Balkansky 2013: 91; Kowalewski 2009: 315).
Figure 6: Late Postclassic (1200–1520 CE) settlements found in the Coixtlahuaca Valley
by the Recorrido Arqueológico de Coixtlahuaca (used by
reconstruction of ancient political economic
mechanisms. Worse, it constructs a top-down view of history where the actual
contributions of most people – and even more their aspirations – are left out and
silenced. These are the narratives Walter Benjamin (1992) so much derided in his
last and desperate ref lections on history.
Why should the calculation of work hours be biased? If there is such a bias,
what are its mechanisms of misrepresentation? And how can it be avoided? I have
argued in other contexts that the historical questions we ask are driven by an
“Monumental ist, was den Maßstab sprengt, Proportionen außer Kraf t setzt und die
Regel der Angemessenheit um der Wirkung willen bewusst verletzt.”
Kirk 2008: 14
“Monuments are ideological statements about social and political relations.”
Pollock 1999: 175
“True monumentality is indeed not expressed in the size, but in the relationship to the
figure of the observer and, put in highly emotive terms, the inner imbuement [Durch-
drungenheit] of a work.”
The task of finding a general and unifying definition for such a complex idea
structured around an object, and the various meanings assigned to an object by
different people (Gosden/Marshall 1996).
Finally, the cultural memory of ancient Egypt has political implications. In
Egypt, antiquity tourism, centered on monuments, plays an important role in the
national economy (Hassan 2003). The f lourishing antiquity market, with all its
disastrous consequences, shows that authentic objects from the past have huge
monetary value also outside Egypt. Interpretation and the administration of
Pharaonic monuments has long been dominated and funded by
political economies and the political-ideological dimen-
sions of archaeology today. Apart from academic positions he has also worked
with the International Committee of the Red Cross in humanitarian missions in
the context of the Afghanistan conf lict.
van Boekel, Dieuwertje
Universiteit Leiden, Department of Archaeology
Dieuwertje has concluded her Research Masters degree at Leiden University in the
field of Ancient Native American cultures. After graduation she started working
as an archaeologist for ‘ADC Archeoprojecten’ in the Netherlands, where she now
hard but in vain in obtaining a blood-
stained triumph in Rome. He was killed by his political enemies on the
7th of December 43 BCE, one year after the publication of his treatise
de Officiis (»On Duties«).
2 On exoteric and esoteric philosophy cf. Cicero, de finibus 5.5.12: Gr. ex-
oterikón (ἐξωτερικόv) – populariter; limatius – in commentariis. – Aristo-
tle wrote de Moribus to his son Nikomachos: Cicero, de finibus 5.5.12.
3 Cf. Hubert Cancik/Hildegard Cancik-Lindemaier, »patria – peregrina
definition of monumentality.
Jeremy Smoak and Alice Mandell tackle a different kind of monumentality in
their chapter as they explore the monumentality of inscriptions in Jerusalem’s urban
spaces and thereby also texts themselves. They argue that considering inscrip-
tions and texts as monumentality exceeds mere typology and style and is more
about the function and “communicative power of the text”. Texts and inscriptions
respectively convey, they argue, memories of “more distant generations within a
larger political or social narrative” than architecture, and thereby
training of the mason, or some other social, political, or cultural dynamic. While
some classify the Siloam Tunnel inscription within the category of royal inscrip-
tions, several studies observe that its cursive script style more closely resembles
the script style of non-lapidary texts of tomb graffiti.3 Yet, it is executed in a way
that suggests that it was a meticulous and planned inscription and it is a com-
memorative text (Schniedewind 2004: 72–73).
Other much less complete texts that contain very little content, on the other
hand, are identified as monumental