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This article presents evidence for the shifting economic networks and cultural relationships between the Jovel Valley of highland Chiapas, and the Gulf Coast lowlands. In particular, we examine material culture of Gulf Coast origin or influence at the hilltop monumental centre of Moxviquil during the Late Classic (ad 600–900) and Early Postclassic (ad 900–1250) periods. These artifacts include a fine orange cylindrical pedestal vase, two examples of ‘portable sculpture’, two anthropomorphic incense burner lids and a whistle (ocarina) in the shape of a kneeling woman. The patterns of curation and disposal of these objects at Moxviquil suggests differences in the way that Gulf Coast-referencing objects were incorporated into social memory and ritual behaviour.
Gender in the European Neolithic has seen little debate, despite major scholarly interest in identity and social relationships. This article considers how gender operated in the Linearbandkeramik (LBK, c. 5500–5000 cal. bc), the first farming culture of central Europe. A new theoretical approach is developed from the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, and the feminist philosopher Braidotti, proposing that how difference and variation are conceived is an important element in how identity is experienced and performed. The concept of ‘difference-within-itself’ is introduced and applied to an assemblage of c. 2350 burials from the LBK via correspondence analysis. The results of this analysis are combined with variation in daily activities and health between male-sexed bodies and female-sexed bodies to argue that differences between males and females shaped lifeways in the LBK, providing different and varied ways of participating in social life. It is concluded that there was diversity and fluidity in female identities, while male identities had more limited possibilities and were subject to further social constraints. The implications of these gendered differences for models of LBK social organization are then considered.
To remain in place in the immediate aftermath of the ninth-century Maya collapse, Maya groups employed various resilient strategies. In the absence of divine rulers, groups needed to renegotiate their forms of political authority and to reconsider the legitimizing role of religious institutions. This kind of negotiation happened first at the local level, where individual communities developed varied political and ideological solutions. At the community of Actuncan, located in the lower Mopan River valley of Belize, reorganization took place within the remains of a monumental urban centre built 1000 years before by the site's early rulers. I report on the changing configuration and use of Actuncan's urban landscape during the process of reorganization. These modifications included the construction of a new centre for political gatherings, the dismantling of old administrative buildings constructed by holy lords and the reuse of the site's oldest ritual space. These developments split the city into distinct civic and ritual zones, paralleling the adoption of a new shared rule divorced from cosmological underpinnings. This case study provides an example of how broader societal resilience relies on adaptation at the local level.
Technology has been a central theme in archaeological discussion. Different approaches have been developed in order to understand and better explain the processes that lead to the production of objects and things. The anthropology of technology has been one such effort, with its focus on technological style and the chaîne opératoire. In this paper we argue that, despite their many contributions, these approaches tend to isolate the process of production, as well as to see it as the imposition of culture over nature. Instead, we propose a relational approach to technology, one that considers the multiple participants in the social actions involved, stressing the affective qualities of the different entities participating in the process of making. We focus this discussion on the production process of rock art in North Central Chile by Diaguita communities (c. ad 1000–c. 1540), arguing that making petroglyphs was a central activity that aimed at the balancing of the world and its participants, creating a mediating space that facilitated connectedness between the multiple members of the Diaguita world, humans and other-than-humans.
The production and use of masks at multiple scales and in diverse contexts is a millennia-long tradition in Mesoamerica. In this paper, we explore some implications of Mesoamerican masking practices in light of materiality studies and the archaeology of the senses. We also discuss a collection of 22 masks, miniature masks and representations of masks from the lower Río Verde valley of coastal Oaxaca, Mexico. The iconography of these artefacts as well as their recovery from well-documented archaeological contexts inform our interpretations of masking practices during an approximately 2000-year span of the Formative period (2000 bc–ad 250). Specifically, we argue that these masking-related artefacts index sociocultural changes in the region, from the first villages and the advent of ceramic technology during the Early Formative period (2000–1000 bc) to a time of increasing consolidation of iconographic influence in the hands of the elite in the final centuries before the Classic period. As indicated by their continued use today, masks have long been intimates of communal activities in Oaxaca.
Prevalent as bird imagery is in the ritual traditions of eastern North America, the bony remains of birds are relatively sparse in archaeological deposits and when present are typically viewed as subsistence remains. A first-millennium ad civic-ceremonial centre on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida contains large pits with bird bones amid abundant fish bone and other taxa. The avian remains are dominated by elements of juvenile white ibises, birds that were taken from offshore rookeries at the time of summer solstices. The pits into which they were deposited were emplaced on a relict dune with solstice orientations. The timing and siting of solstice feasts at this particular centre invites discussion of world-renewal rituality and the significance of birds in not only the timing of these events but also possibly as agents of balance and rejuvenation.
This article explores the archaeology of place and memory from the standpoint of research on large cemeteries of chamber tombs cut out of the rock in southern Sicily. Burials of this kind were integral to the configuration of major settlements dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Iron Age (c. 2200–600 bc) and are a distinctive feature of Sicilian cultural landscapes. Rock-cut tombs at the four key sites of Castelluccio, Thapsos, Pantalica and Cassibile, representing successive phases of the Bronze and Iron Ages, are discussed in relation to terrain and layout. One aim is to identify recurrent principles of spatial organization, while drawing attention to settlements as structured environments with complex ritual geographies. Changes in tomb form are discussed with reference to variations in funerary practices over time. I conclude that cultural traditions in this region were sustained in part by the prominence of funerary architecture and by re-engagement with older sites in later periods through acts of re-use and remembrance.
The global distribution of cowrie shells (Monetaria annulus and Monetaria moneta) attests to their exchange over long distances and their value in diverse cultural contexts. In addition to their commodification, cowries functioned as adornment, ritual, art and in the elaboration of both living and ancestral beings in many settings through time. Examining the circulation and usage of cowries in these different contexts facilitates an exploration of the ways in which a global commodity may carry, lose and acquire value. An ethnographic review of cowrie use in the hitherto overlooked context of southern Africa suggests that particular qualities of the shell imbued it with culturally specific value. It is suggested that cowries, as part of divination sets, were active in divination because of their white colour and their origin in the (maritime) ancestral realm that anchored divination in notions of ancestry, fertility and healing. Furthermore, in certain contexts, cowries were conceived of as animate objects, metonymically active in ‘cooling’ and healing. These observations, set within a broader discussion relating to archaeological approaches to the accumulation of value, indicate the importance of exploring alternative ontologies in the biographies of global commodities, and reveal the potential of a biographical ontology of the ‘ancestral’.
In this paper, we seek to explore the ways in which landscapes become venues not only for manipulations of the past in a present, but also for shaping possible futures. Considerations of temporality and being in the landscape have been more strongly focused on the past and social memory than the future, anticipation and projectivity, but these are vital considerations if we are to preserve the possibility that past people imagined alternative futures. A fruitful archaeological context for an exploration of past futures can be found in the choices people made during the late Iron Age and Roman period in Britain, which has an increasingly rich and high-resolution material record for complex changes and continuities during a period of cultural interactions and imperial power dynamics. More specifically, recent research into the architectural and material practices evident on rural settlement sites and across landscapes forces us to challenge preconceptions about the reactive/reactionary culture of rural societies. Case-studies from Kent and the West Country will be deployed to develop the argument that in the materializing of time, the future has a very significant part to play.
The site of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey keeps fascinating archaeologists as it is being exposed. The excavation since 1995 has been accompanied by a lively discussion about the meaning and implications of its remarkable early Neolithic megalithic architecture, unprecedented in its monumentality, complexity and symbolic content. The building history and the chronological relations between the different structures (enclosures), however, remain in many ways a challenge and open to further analysis. The study presented here is an attempt to contribute in this direction by applying a preliminary architectural formal analysis in order to reconstruct aspects of the architectural design processes involved in the construction of the monumental enclosures. This is done under the premise that such investigation would shed light on the chaîne opératoire of the enclosures' construction and their history, thus enabling a fresh look as well as an evaluation of past suggestions regarding these structures and the people who built them. Indeed, the results of the analysis brought to light an underlying geometric pattern which offers a new understanding of the assemblage of architectural remains indicating that three of the stone-built large enclosures were planned and initially built as a single project.