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POWER MATERIALIZED: THE DART-THROWER AS A PAN-MESOAMERICAN STATUS MARKER

  • Donald A. Slater (a1)

Abstract

Throughout the deep history of Mesoamerica, the dart-thrower (a.k.a. atlatl) played a vital utilitarian and symbolic role. Although it was a highly effective tool exploited for practical purposes such as hunting and warfare, ample evidence exists which reveals its association with themes of authority, power, and prestige. The survival of ornamented dart-throwers, as well as the context in which the implement appears in Mesoamerican material culture and forms of graphic communication, reveal its role in the production and assertion of high social status. This argument will be supported by archaeological and ethnographic evidence which demonstrates that the dart-thrower served as a pan-Mesoamerican symbol of power beginning no later than the Middle to Late Formative period and continuing through the Conquest.

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E-mail correspondence to: dslater@brandeis.edu

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