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Transformation by Fire: Changes in Funerary Customs from the Early Agricultural to Early Preclassic Period among Prehispanic Populations of Southern Arizona

  • Jessica I. Cerezo-Román (a1) and James T. Watson (a2)

Abstract

We examine the changes in funerary rituals from the Early Agricultural period (2100 BC–AD 50) to the Early Preclassic period (AD 475–750) and how these changes concurrently reflect changes in social relationships between the dead, their families, and the community. The predominant mortuary ritual in the Early Agricultural period was inhumation, possibly emphasizing a variety of identity intersections of the dead and the mourners in the treatment of the body while creating collective memories and remembrances through shared ways of commemorating the dead. An innovation in funerary practices in the form of secondary cremation appeared in the Early Agricultural period and was slowly but broadly adopted, representing new social dynamics within the society. Thereafter, secondary cremation became the main funeral custom. During the Early Preclassic period, the variation in body position and the type and quantity of objects found with individuals decreased. It is possible that the vehicle for displaying different identity intersections changed and was not placed in the body, per se, as much as in previous periods. However, the transformation characteristics of these funeral rituals and the increase in community investment could have fostered the building or reinforcing of stronger social ties that highlighted a “collective identity.”

En este artículo se examinan cambios en los rituales funerarios del período Agrícola Temprano (2100 aC–dC 50) hasta el período Preclásico Temprano (dC 475–750) y cómo estos cambios modificaron las relaciones sociales entre los muertos, sus familias y la comunidad. Los rituales mortuorios predominantes en el período Agrícola Temprano fueron inhumaciones caracterizadas por variaciones en la posición y ubicación del cuerpo, posiblemente enfatizando la individualidad de los sujetos. Estos rituales cambiaron en el período Preclásico y la cremación se convirtió en la práctica dominante. Las cremaciones durante este período fueron principalmente depósitos secundarios con bajas cantidades de hueso ubicadas en cementerios adyacente a grupos de habitacionales. A través de estas cremaciones la membresía al grupo social se enfatizó. Los resultados sugieren que las razones de cambios en los rituales funerarios a través del tiempo fueron multicausales. Sin embargo, estos cambios reflejan identidades grupales emergentes con una fuerte cohesión social, consistente con los patrones observados en otras evidencias arqueológicas del área.

Copyright

Corresponding author

(jessica.cerezoroman@ou.edu, corresponding author)

References

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Keywords

Transformation by Fire: Changes in Funerary Customs from the Early Agricultural to Early Preclassic Period among Prehispanic Populations of Southern Arizona

  • Jessica I. Cerezo-Román (a1) and James T. Watson (a2)

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