Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Creating the Cosmos, Reifying Power: A Zooarchaeological Investigation of Corporal Animal Forms in the Copan Valley

  • Nawa Sugiyama (a1), William L. Fash (a2) and Christine A.M. France (a3)

Abstract

Throughout Mesoamerica, corporal animal forms (a term encompassing living animals, animal-derived by-products and artifacts made from animal bodies) have long played essential roles in state-level ritualized activities. This paper focuses on three zooarchaeological assemblages from the Classic Period Maya kingdom of Copan, Honduras (ad 426–822), to describe how corporal animal forms were implemented to mediate power, express social identities and encapsulate contemporary socio-political circumstances. Two of these fundamental assemblages relate to world-creation myths associated with the Starry Deer-Crocodile, a mythological entity prominent in both contexts which was materialized into the ritual arena through a formalized process of commingling and translating animal body elements. The third context was deposited some three centuries later during the reign of Yax Pasaj, the last ruler of the Copan dynasty. This assemblage, extravagant with powerful felids conjuring the authority of the royal dynasty, reflects a period of acute socio-political struggle faced by the Copan dynasty. Detailed zooarchaeological analysis of corporal animal forms at Copan facilitates a more comprehensive reconstruction of some of the socio-political power negotiations in play.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Aguilera, C., 1985. Flora y Fauna Mexicana: Mitología y Tradiciones. Mexico City: Editorial Everest Mexicana.
Ballinger, D.A., 1988. Preliminary Report on the Jaguar Burial Cache of Altar Q. Report archived at the Copan Acropolis Museum.
Ballinger, D.A. & Stomper, J., 2000. The jaguars of Altar Q, Copán, Honduras: faunal analysis, archaeology, and ecology. Journal of Ethnobiology 20(2), 223–36.
Beaubien, H.F., 2004. Excavation and recovery of a funerary offering of marine materials from Copán, in Maya Zooarchaeology: New directions in method and theory, ed. Emery, K.F.. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 4554.
Behrensmeyer, A.K., 1978. Taphonomic and ecologic information from bone weathering. Paleobiology 4(2), 150–62.
Bell, C., 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bell, C., 1997. Ritual Perspective and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Benson, E.P. (ed.), 1972. The Cult of the Feline: A conference in Pre-Columbian iconography. Washington (DC): Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Bentley, J.W. & Rodríguez, G., 2001. Honduran folk entomology. Current Anthropology 42(2), 285308.
Bird-David, N., 1999. ‘Animism’ revisited: personhood, environment, and relational epistemology. Current Anthropology 40(S1), S67–91.
Brown, L.A., 2004. Dangerous places and wild spaces: creating meaning with materials and space at contemporary Maya shrines on El Duende mountain. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 11(1), 3158.
Coe, M.D., 1972. Olmec jaguars and Olmec kings, in The Cult of the Feline: A conference in Pre-Columbian iconography, ed. Benson, E.P.. Washington (DC): Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 118.
Coggins, C., 1975. Painting and Drawing Styles at Tikal: An Historical and Iconographic Reconstruction. PhD dissertation, Harvard University.
Collins, L.M., 2002. The Zooarchaeology of the Copan Valley: Social Status and the Search for a Maya Slave Class. PhD dissertation, Harvard University.
de la Rosa, C.L. & Nocke, C.C., 2000. A Guide to the Carnivores of Central America: Natural history, ecology, and conservation. Austin (TX): University of Texas Press.
DeMarrais, E., Castillo, L.J. & Earle, T., 1996. Ideology, materialization, and power strategies. Current Anthropology 37(1), 1531.
Emery, K., 2003. The noble beast: status and differential access to animals in the Maya world, World Archaeology 34(3), 498515.
Emery, K.F., 2004. Maya Zooarchaeology: New directions in method and theory. Los Angeles (CA): Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California.
Emery, K.F. & Götz, C.M. (eds.), 2013. The Archaeology of Mesoamerican Animals. Atlanta (GA): Lockwood Press.
Emery, K., Thornton, E., Sharpe, A., Cunningham-Smith, P., Duffy, L. & McIntosh, B., 2016. Testing osteometric and morphological methods for turkey species determination in Maya faunal assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10, 607–31.
Fash, W.L., 2001. Scribes, Warriors and Kings: The city of Copán and the ancient Maya (2nd edn). London: Thames & Hudson.
Fash, W.L., 2005. Towards a social history of the Copán Valley, in Copán: The history of an ancient Maya kingdom, eds. Andrews, E.W. & Fash, W.L.. Santa Fe/Oxford: School of American Research Press/James Currey, 73101.
Fash, W.L. & Fash, B., 2016. Buried Cosmos: Creation and Royal Accession Rituals from the Copan Underworld. Paper presented at the Fifth H.B. Nicholson Award for Excellence in Mesoamerican Studies, 21 October 2016, Harvard University.
Fash, W.L., Fash, B. & Davis-Salazar, K., 2004. Setting the stage: origins of the Hieroglyphic Stairway plaza on the great period ending, in Understanding Early Classic Copan, eds. Bell, E.E., Canuto, M.A. & Sharen, R.J.. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 6583.
Fash, W.L., Tokovinine, A. & Fash, B.W., 2009. The house of new fire at Teotihuacan and its legacy in Mesoamerica, in The Art of Urbanism: How Mesoamerican kingdoms represented themselves in architecture and imagery, eds. Fash, W.L. & López Luján, L.. Washington (DC): Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 201–29.
Fash, W.L.J., 1983. Deducing social organization from Classic Maya settlement patterns: a case study from the Copan Valley, in Civilization in the Ancient Americas, ed. R.M.L. & Kolata, A.L.. Cambridge (MA): University of New Mexico Press/Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 261–88.
Furst, P., 1968. The Olmec were-jaguar motif in the light of ethnographic reality, in Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec, ed. Benson, E.P.. Washington (DC): Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 143–75.
Gilbert, B.M., 1980. Mammalian Osteology. Columbia (MO): Missouri Archaeological Society.
González Torres, Y., 2001. El jaguar, in Animales y Plantas En La Cosmovision Mesoamericana, ed. González Torres, Y.. México, D.F.: Plaza y Valdés, 123–44.
Gossen, G.H., 1975. Animal souls and human destiny in Chamula. Man 10(3), 448–61.
Grigione, M.M., Beier, P., Hopkins, R.A., Neal, D., Padley, W.D., Schonewald, C.M. & Johnson, M.L., 2002. Ecological and allometric determinants of home-range size for mountain lions (Puma concolor). Animal Conservation 5, 317–24.
Grove, D.C., 1972. Olmec felines in highland Central Mexico, in The Cult of the Feline: A conference in Pre-Columbian iconography, ed. Benson, E.P.. Washington (DC): Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 153–64.
Hallowell, I.A., 1975. Ojibwa ontology, behavior and world view, in Teachings from the American Earth: Indian religion and philosophy, eds. Tedlock, D. & Tedlock, B.. New York (NY): W.W. Norton, 141–77.
Hunn, E., 1977. Tzeltal Folk Zoology: The classification of discontinuities in nature. London: Academic Press.
Inomata, T. & Coben, L.S., 2006. Overture: an invitation to the archaeological theater, in Archaeology of Performance: Theaters of power, community, and politics, eds. Inomata, T. & Coben, L.S.. Lanham (MD): Altamira Press, 1144.
Kertzer, D.I., 1991. The role of ritual in state-formation, in Religious Regimes and State-Formation: Perspective from European ethnology, ed. Wolf, E.R.. Albany (NY): SUNY Press, 85103.
López Luján, L., Chávez Balderas, X., Zúñiga-Arellano, B., Aguirre Molina, A. & Valentín Maldonado, N., 2014. Entering the underworld: animal offerings at the foot of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, in Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World, eds. McCarty, S.A. & Arbuckle., B. Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado, 3361.
Marean, C.W. & Frey, C.J., 1997. Animal bones from caves to cities: reverse utility curves as methodological artifacts. American Antiquity 62(4), 698711.
Martin, S., 2015. The Old Man of the Maya universe: a unitary dimension to ancient Maya religion, in Maya Archaeology 3, eds. Golden, C., Houston, S. & Skidmore., J. San Francisco (CA): Precolumbia Mesoweb Press, 186227.
Martin, S. & Grube, N., 2000. Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the dynasties of the ancient Maya. London: Thames & Hudson.
Olivier, G. (ed.), 2016. Jaguar, Special Edition in Artes de Mexico. Mexico City: Artes de Mexico.
Olsen, S.J., 1964. Mammal Remains from Archaeological Sites: Part I Southeastern and Southwestern United States. Cambridge (MA): Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.
Ortner, S.B., 1973. On key symbols. American Anthropologist 75, 1338–46.
Polaco, O.J., 1991. La Fauna En El Templo Mayor. (Colección Divulgación.) México, D.F.: Asociación de Amigos del Templo Mayor, Instituo Nacional de Antropología.
Rabinowitz, A.R. & Nottingham, B.G.J., 1986. Ecology and behaviour of the jaguar (Panthera onca) in Belize, Central America. Journal of Zoology London A 210, 149–59.
Reitz, E.J. & Wing, E.S., 2004. Zooarchaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ridgely, R.S. & Gwynne, J.A., 1992. A Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.
Saunders, N.J., 1989. People of the Jaguar: The living spirit of ancient America. London: Souvenir Press.
Saunders, N.J., 1994. Predators of culture: jaguar symbolism and Mesoamerican elites. World Archaeology 26(1), 104–17.
Saunders, N.J., 1998. Icons of Power: Feline symbolism in the Americas. London/New York: Routledge.
Schaller, G.B. & Drawshaw, P.G.J., 1980. Movement patterns of jaguar. Biotropica 12(3), 161–8.
Seidensticker, J.C.I., Hornocker, M.G., Wiles, W.V. & Messick, J.P., 1973. Mountain lion social organization in the Idaho primitive area. Wildlife Monographs 35, 360.
Stone, A.J. & Zender, M., 2011. Reading Maya Art: A hieroglyphic guide to ancient Maya painting and sculpture. New York (NY): Thames & Hudson.
Stuart, D., 1992. Hieroglyphs and archaeology at Copan. Ancient Mesoamerica 3(1), 169–84.
Stuart, D., 2000. ‘The arrival of strangers’: Teotihuacan and Tollan in Classic Maya history, in Mesoamerica's Classic Heritage: From Teotihuacan to the Aztecs, eds. Carrasco, D., Jones, L. & Sessions., S. Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado, 465514.
Stuart, D., 2003. A Cosmological Throne at Palenque. www.mesoweb.com/stuart/notes/Throne.pdf
Stuart, D., 2005. The Inscriptions from Temple XIX at Palenque: A commentary. San Francisco (CA): Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute.
Sugiyama, N., 2014. Animals and Sacred Mountains: How Ritualized Performances Materialized State-Ideologies at Teotihuacan, Mexico. PhD dissertation, Harvard University.
Sugiyama, N., 2016. La noche y el día en Teotihuacan. Artes de México 121, 3035.
Sugiyama, N., Fash, W.L. & France, C.A.M., 2018. Jaguar and puma captivity and trade among the Maya: stable isotope data from Copan, Honduras. PLoS ONE 13(9), e0202958.
Sugiyama, N., Pérez, G., Rodríguez, B., Torres, F. & Valadez, R., 2014. Animals and the state: the role of animals in state-level rituals in Mesoamerica, in Animals and Inequality in the Ancient World, eds. McCarty, S.A. & Arbuckle, B.. Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado, 1131.
Sugiyama, N., Somerville, A.D. & Schoeninger, M.J., 2015. Stable isotopes and zooarchaeology at Teotihuacan, Mexico reveal earliest evidence of wild carnivore management in Mesoamerica. PLoS ONE 10(9), e0135635.
Tambiah, S.J., 1981. A Performative Approach to Ritual. (Radcliffe-Brown lecture in social anthropology.) London: British Academy.
Taube, K., 2010. Where earth and sky meet: the sea in ancient and contemporary Maya cosmology, in Fiery Pool: The Maya and the mythic sea, eds. Finamore, D. & Houston, S.D.. Salem/New Haven: Peabody Essex Museum/Yale University Press, 202–19.
Thurston, E., 2011. Crocodiles and the Ancient Maya: An Examination of the Iconographic and Zooarchaeological Evidence. PhD dissertation, Trent University.
van Perlo, B., 2006. Birds of Mexico and Central America. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.
Viveiros de Castro, E., 1998. Cosmological deixis and Amerindian perspectivism. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4(3), 469–88.
Willey, G.J., Leventhal, R.M. & Fash, W.L., 1978. Maya settlement in the Copan Valley, Archaeology 31(4), 3243.
Zuidema, T.R., 1985. The lion in the city: royal symbols of transition in Cuzco, in Animal Myths and Metaphors in South America, ed. Urton, G.. Salt Lake City (UT): University of Utah Press, 183250.

Creating the Cosmos, Reifying Power: A Zooarchaeological Investigation of Corporal Animal Forms in the Copan Valley

  • Nawa Sugiyama (a1), William L. Fash (a2) and Christine A.M. France (a3)

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed