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From Inscribed Bodies to Distributed Persons: Contextualizing Tairona Figural Images in Performance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 August 2003

Matthew G. Looper
Affiliation:
Department of Art and Art History, California State University, Chico, Chico, CA 95929-0820, USA; Mlooper@csuchico.edu.

Abstract

Following trends in anthropology, the human body has recently become an important topic of discourse in archaeology. While some anthropologists consider the body as a social metaphor or site of symbolic inscription, others have questioned the validity of approaches based on the dichotomization and hierarchization of the mind and body. Semasiology, in particular, offers an epistemologically sound basis for interpreting the body, by grounding agency in the socially-structured actions that constitute corporeal space. This article applies the semasiological concept of the action-sign to archaeological problems through an examination of the interrelationship between Tairona anthropomorphic imagery and remains of ceremonial architecture at Pueblito, an archaeological site in Colombia. In both cases, physical remains constitute the traces of the actions through which agential persons created sacred spaces, and the meanings of these spaces may be more fully reconstructed by comparing diverse modes of embodiment. Tairona figural art and architecture constitute a creative technology, serving as an indexically-bound nexus of embodied social action.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2003 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

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