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Contested Places and Places of Contest: The Evolution of Social Power and Ceremonial Space in Prehistoric Puerto Rico

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Peter E. Siegel*
Affiliation:
John Milner Associates, 535 North Church Street, West Chester, PA 19380 and Department of Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605

Abstract

The evolution of social power during the ceramic age of Puerto Rico is investigated. Archaeological site plans, ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts, and size/spatial distributions of ball courts and ceremonial plazas are investigated as they relate to political organization and leadership roles in prehistoric Puerto Rico. One of the strands linking 14 centuries of ceramicage culture in Puerto Rico is the emphasis on ceremonial space as an overtly integrative arena for the group. As the definition of the “group” evolved from a village-bound entity to a multivillage polity, the importance and elaboration of ceremonial space increased accordingly. The central argument in this paper is that politically motivated individuals accrued power by controlling the rituals and ceremonies that were of fundamental importance for maintaining and reproducing society. Rituals and ceremonies were performed in specially designated areas of communities. As access to power narrowed to specific lineages, families, or individuals, the designated community spaces became more formal in construction and location. These ceremonial spaces, referred to as ball courts and ceremonial plazas in the ethnohistoric accounts, ultimately became contested places as well as places of contest.

Resumen

Resumen

Se investiga la evolución del poder social durante la era cerámica de Puerto Rico. Se analizan los planos arqueólogicos del sitio, los relatos etnohistóricos y etnográficos, las distribuciones del tamaño/espacio de los bateyes y las plazas ceremoniales con respecto a la organización política y posición de mando en el Puerto Rico prehistórico. Una de las conexiones que une 14 siglos de cultura de la era cerámica en Puerto Rico es el énfasis puesto en el espacio ceremonial como un punto de reunión del grupo. A medida que la definición de "grupo" evolucionaba, desde una entidad de aldea hasta una comunidad integrada por varias aldeas, la elaboración del espacio ceremonial y su importancia iban aumentando. El tema central de este informe es que las personas con motivación política acumulaban poder controlando los ritos y las ceremonias que resultaban fundamentales para el mantenimiento y la reproducción de la sociedad. Los ritos y las ceremonias eran realizados en áreas especiales de la comunidad. Cuando el acceso al poder se limitó a linajes, familias, o personas particulares, los espacios designados de la comunidad se convirtieron en lugares más formales en términos de construcción y de localización. Estos espacios ceremoniales, denominados bateyes y plazas ceremoniales en los relatos etnohistóricos, eventualmente se convirtieron en lugares contestables y lugares de contienda.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 1999

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