The Pacific coast and southern highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala is a region significant to debates about the origins of social complexity, interaction, and colonialism. The area, however, has received uneven attention and much of what we know is largely restricted to the Preclassic period. This theoretically eclectic volume presents greater temporal coverage, is geographically unified, and engages some of the most important questions of each period through a discussion of the archaeology of identity.
Chapters range from traditional assessments of identity to discussion of practice and relational personhood; all share a concern for how archaeology and ethnohistory provide opportunities and challenges in the reconstruction of identities. The region is one with a multifaceted history of interactions between local populations and those from other parts of Mesoamerica. Linguistic diversity, landscape, and artistic representations have added to the complexities of understanding identity formation here. Rather than providing a unified voice on the issues, Archaeology and Identity on the Pacific Coast and Southern Highlands of Mesoamerica is a dialogue presented through case studies, one that will hopefully encourage future research in this complex and little understood region of Mesoamerica.
Presenting the latest in archaeometallurgical research in a Mesoamerican context, Archaeometallurgy in Mesoamerica brings together up-to-date research from the most notable scholars in the field. These contributors analyze data from a variety of sites, examining current approaches to the study of archaeometallurgy in the region as well as new perspectives on the significance metallurgy and metal objects had in the lives of its ancient peoples.
The chapters are organized following the cyclical nature of metals--beginning with extracting and mining ore, moving to smelting and casting of finished objects, and ending with recycling and deterioration back to the original state once the object is no longer in use. Data obtained from archaeological investigations, ethnohistoric sources, ethnographic studies, along with materials science analyses, are brought to bear on questions related to the integration of metallurgy into local and regional economies, the sacred connotations of copper objects, metallurgy as specialized crafting, and the nature of mining, alloy technology, and metal fabrication.
The Mixtec, or the people of Ñuu Savi ('Nation of the Rain God'), one of the major civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica, made their home in the highlands of Oaxaca, where they resisted both Aztec military expansion and the Spanish conquest. In Encounter with the Plumed Serpent, two leading scholars present and interpret the sacred histories narrated in the Mixtec codices, the largest surviving collection of pre-Columbian manuscripts in existence. In these screenfold books, ancient painter-historians chronicled the politics of the Mixtec from approximately a.d. 900 to 1521, portraying the royal families, rituals, wars, alliances, and ideology of the times.
By analyzing and cross-referencing the codices, which have been fragmented and dispersed in far-flung archives, the authors attempt to reconstruct Mixtec history. Their synthesis here builds on long examination of the ancient manuscripts. Adding useful interpretation and commentary, Jansen and Pérez Jiménez synthesize the large body of surviving documents into the first unified narrative of Mixtec sacred history.
Archaeologists and other scholars as well as readers with an interest in Mesoamerican cultures will find this lavishly illustrated volume a compelling and fascinating history and a major step forward in knowledge of the Mixtec.
Scholars have recently achieved new insights into the many ways in which the dead and the living interacted from the Late Preclassic to the Conquest in Mesoamerica. The eight essays in this useful volume were written by well-known scholars who offer cross-disciplinary and synergistic insights into the varied articulations between the dead and those who survived them. From physically opening the tomb of their ancestors and carrying out ancestral heirlooms to periodic feasts, sacrifices, and other lavish ceremonies, heirs revisited death on a regular basis. The activities attributable to the dead, moreover, range from passively defining territorial boundaries to more active exploits, such as “dancing” at weddings and “witnessing” royal accessions. The dead were—and continued to be—a vital part of everyday life in Mesoamerican cultures.
This book results from a symposium organized by the editors for an annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The contributors employ historical sources, comparative art history, anthropology, and sociology, as well as archaeology and anthropology, to uncover surprising commonalities across cultures, including the manner in which the dead were politicized, the perceptions of reciprocity between the dead and the living, and the ways that the dead were used by the living to create, define, and renew social as well as family ties. In exploring larger issues of a “good death” and the transition from death to ancestry, the contributors demonstrate that across Mesoamerica death was almost never accompanied by the extinction of a persona; it was more often the beginning of a social process than a conclusion.
Departing from the political economy perspective taken by the vast majority of volumes devoted to Mesoamerican obsidian, Obsidian Reflections is an examination of obsidian's sociocultural dimensions—particularly in regard to Mesoamerican world view, religion, and belief systems.
Exploring the materiality of this volcanic glass rather than only its functionality, this book considers the interplay among people, obsidian, and meaning and how these relationships shaped patterns of procurement, exchange, and use. An international group of scholars hailing from Belize, France, Japan, Mexico, and the United States provides a variety of case studies from Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. The authors draw on archaeological, iconographic, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric data to examine obsidian as a touchstone for cultural meaning, including references to sacrificial precepts, powerful deities, landscape, warfare, social relations, and fertility.
Obsidian Reflections underscores the necessity of understanding obsidian from within its cultural context—the perspective of the indigenous people of Mesoamerica. It will be of great interest to Mesoamericanists as well as students and scholars of lithic studies and material culture.
Prehistoric Games of North American Indians is a collection of studies on the ancient games of indigenous peoples of North America. The authors, all archaeologists, muster evidence from artifacts, archaeological features, ethnography, ethnohistory, and to a lesser extent linguistics and folklore. Chapters sometimes center on a particular game (chunkey rolling disc game or patolli dice game, for example) or sometimes on a specific prehistoric society and its games (Aztec acrobatic games, games of the ancient Fremont people), and in one instance on the relationship between slavery and gaming in ancient indigenous North American societies.
In addition to the intrinsic value of pursuing the time depth of these games, some of which remain popular and culturally important today among Native Americans or within the broader society, the book is important for demonstrating a wide variety of research methods and for problematizing a heretofore overlooked research topic. Issues that emerge include the apparently ubiquitous but difficult to detect presence of gambling, the entanglement of indigenous games and the social logic of the societies in which they are embedded, the characteristics of women’s versus men’s games or those of in-group and out-group gaming, and the close correspondence between gaming and religion. The book’s coverage is broad and balanced in terms of geography, level of socio-cultural organization and gender.
Seeking Conflict in Mesoamerica focuses on the conflicts of the ancient Maya, providing a holistic history of Maya hostilities and comparing them with those of neighboring Mesoamerican villages and towns. Contributors to the volume explore the varied stories of past Maya conflicts through artifacts, architecture, texts, and images left to posterity.
Many studies have focused on the degree to which the prevalence, nature, and conduct of conflict has varied across time and space. This volume focuses not only on such operational considerations but on cognitive and experiential issues, analyzing how the Maya understood and explained conflict, what they recognized as conflict, how conflict was experienced by various groups, and the circumstances surrounding conflict. By offering an emic (internal and subjective) understanding alongside the more commonly researched etic (external and objective) perspective, contributors clarify insufficiencies and address lapses in data and analysis. They explore how the Maya defined themselves within the realm of warfare and examine the root causes and effects of intergroup conflict.
Using case studies from a wide range of time periods, Seeking Conflict in Mesoamerica provides a basis for understanding hostilities and broadens the archaeological record for the “seeking” of conflict in a way that has been largely untouched by previous scholars. With broad theoretical reach beyond Mesoamerican archaeology, the book will have wide interdisciplinary appeal and will be important to ethnohistorians, art historians, ethnographers, epigraphers, and those interested in human conflict more broadly.
Matthew Abtosway, Karen Bassie-Sweet, George J. Bey III, M. Kathryn Brown, Allen J. Christenson, Tomás Gallareta Negrón, Elizabeth Graham, Helen R. Haines, Christopher L. Hernandez, Harri Kettunen, Rex Koontz, Geoffrey McCafferty, Jesper Nielsen, Joel W. Palka, Kerry L. Sagebiel, Travis W. Stanton, Alexandre Tokovinine
Paloma Martinez-Cruz argues that the medicine traditions of Mesoamerican women constitute a hemispheric intellectual lineage that continues to thrive despite the legacy of colonization. Martinez-Cruz asserts that indigenous and mestiza women healers are custodians of a knowledge base that remains virtually uncharted.
The few works looking at the knowledge of women in Mesoamerica generally examine only the written—even academic—world, accessible only to the most elite segments of (customarily male) society. These works have consistently excluded the essential repertoire and performed knowledge of women who think and work in ways other than the textual. And while two of the book’s chapters critique contemporary novels, Martinez-Cruz also calls for the exploration of non-textual knowledge transmission. In this regard, the book's goals and methods are close to those of performance scholarship and anthropology, and these methods reveal Mesoamerican women to be public intellectuals. In Women and Knowledge in Mesoamerica, fieldwork and ethnography combine to reveal women healers as models of agency.
Her multidisciplinary approach allows Martinez-Cruz to disrupt Euro-based intellectual hegemony and to make a case for the epistemic authority of Native women. Written from a Chicana perspective, this study is learned, personal, and engaging for anyone who is interested in the wisdom that prevailing analytical cultures have deemed “unintelligible.” As it turns out, those who are unacquainted with the sometimes surprising extent and depth of wisdom of indigenous women healers simply haven’t been looking in the right places—outside the texts from which they have been consistently excluded.
The history of writing, or so the standard story goes, is an ascending process, evolving toward the alphabet and finally culminating in the "full writing" of recorded speech. Writing without Words challenges this orthodoxy, and with it widespread notions of literacy and dominant views of art and literature, history and geography. Asking how knowledge was encoded and preserved in Pre-Columbian and early colonial Mesoamerican cultures, the authors focus on systems of writing that did not strive to represent speech. Their work reveals the complicity of ideology in the history of literacy, and offers new insight into the history of writing. The contributors--who include art historians, anthropologists, and literary theorists--examine the ways in which ancient Mesoamerican and Andean peoples conveyed meaning through hieroglyphic, pictorial, and coded systems, systems inseparable from the ideologies they were developed to serve. We see, then, how these systems changed with the European invasion, and how uniquely colonial writing systems came to embody the post-conquest American ideologies. The authors also explore the role of these early systems in religious discourse and their relation to later colonial writing. Bringing the insights from Mesoamerica and the Andes to bear on a fundamental exchange among art history, literary theory, semiotics, and anthropology, the volume reveals the power contained in the medium of writing.
Contributors. Elizabeth Hill Boone, Tom Cummins, Stephen Houston, Mark B. King, Dana Leibsohn, Walter D. Mignolo, John Monaghan, John M. D. Pohl, Joanne Rappaport, Peter van der Loo