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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)


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.



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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)


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