Magdalena Antczak and Andrzej Antczak
Pottery figurines made by the indigenous peoples in precolonial times have been a relatively rare finding in the Caribbean. A few dozen recovered across the Greater and Lesser Antilles cannot ‘compete’ with the thousands known from the neighbouring mainland. The lack of sound contextual and chronological data has severely limited the role of figurines in the pageant of the region’s past. Rarely addressed in the archaeological literature, figurines have been the focus of scant substantial research. This chapter examines what is currently known about precolonial figurines in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, and on the Southern Caribbean islands. It discusses the precolonial archaeology of the region in order to facilitate the overview of figurines which follows. The case studies are ordered diachronically and include Puerto Rico, Cuba, St Lucia, and the Los Roques Archipelago. Existing figurine interpretations are addressed and the chapter concludes with suggestions for future research.
Andrew H. Tremayne and Jeffrey T. Rasic
This chapter provides a summary of what is currently known about the Denbigh Flint complex of northwest Alaska. Old and new data are used to present an updated chronology for their appearance and disappearance in Alaska. Sourcing studies show migratory pulses or trade across Bering Strait brought Siberian obsidian to Alaska over 4,000 years ago, adding support to origin models positing an Arctic Small Tool tradition source population in Asia. The chapter revisits such issues as the population’s economic orientation, subsistence, and their maritime adaptations, which remain poorly understood. It also assesses the relationship between technology, site types, mobility, and regional settlement patterns, concluding that some Denbigh groups were indeed highly mobile foragers with a specialized reliance on migratory caribou herds. Gaps in current knowledge are emphasized and future research directions are suggested.
Jesse Ballenger, Vance Holliday, and Guadelupe Sanchez
Paleoindian occupations across the Southwest are known largely from surface artifact collections because relatively few in situ sites are known. Clovis is the exception, with one of the world’s highest concentrations of Clovis mammoth kills occurring in southeast Arizona (Murray Springs, Naco, and Lehner). Otherwise Clovis is thinly scattered across New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Sonora. Folsom is the most common Paleoindian projectile point type in the Southwest in terms of numbers, but is largely concentrated in the basins of the Upper Rio Grande valley in New Mexico and Colorado. Unfluted Paleoindian artifact styles are widely scattered throughout the region, but most are concentrated along the Upper Rio Grande valley.
Roy L. Carlson
Similarities between the earliest Northwest Coast art and ethnographic art are traced regionally from 2000 bc into the late nineteenth century. The earliest known figural art is in the Fraser River–Gulf Islands region and consists of human and animal images with ribs and backbones, joint marks, and protruding tongues, and masks. These motifs are present on ritual spoons used for feeding the dead, probably as part of an early form of the memorial potlatch, and are related to beliefs in human–animal transformation, regeneration from bone, spirit power, and shamanism. These same motifs are found later in adjacent regions as parts of ritual objects, tools, and utensils. Art declined in the late pre-contact period in the region where it is known earliest, but fluoresced later on the lower Columbia River, particularly on the northern Northwest Coast where the late classic interlocked style developed and has continued to evolve today.
Between A.D. 200 and 900, the Ipiutak regional system developed an intercontinental trade in obsidian and iron, associated with a shamanic crisis cult in Northwest Alaska. People gathered seasonally within community structures (qargi) for cultic performances, maintained an extensive trade network, and warred with their neighbors. Ipiutak was supported by the hunting of walrus, seal, and caribou; the possible contribution of whaling remains uncertain. Most settlements were small, including 3 to 6 houses, although the principal village at Point Hope had over 30 contemporaneous houses, producing a total of >600 houses and over 100 interments. Lacking pottery and oil lamps, Ipiutak people were specialized ivory workers, producing an elaborate and profound art, often employed as grave offerings. Ipiutak was affiliated and on occasion opposed to the Old Bering Sea culture of Bering Strait but its origins remain disputed between Central Asian and Alaska sources.
Jens Fog Jensen
This chapter provides a summary of the Greenlandic Dorset culture, previously known as Independence II or Dorset I. Greenlandic Dorset is one aspect of a particularly dynamic period in eastern Arctic prehistory, which saw significant culture change and movement, and which has resulted in the recognition of several regional variants. Important characteristics of Greenlandic Dorset are outlined, with special focus on chronology, artifact style, architecture, and human ecology. Key localities are described in order to indicate the variability in Greenlandic Dorset settlement patterns. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the relationship of Greenlandic Dorset with other contemporary cultures including “transitional” and Early Dorset.
This chapter synthesizes our current understanding of Holocene prehistory (from 11,500 years ago) of the northwest Subarctic, encompassing Alaska, Yukon Territory, and northern British Columbia. Various cultural chronologies are considered, as are new interpretations based on recently excavated sites. These data indicate conservation of lithic technologies concurrent with economic change throughout the region. Periods of cultural transitions occurred at 6,000 and 1,000 years ago. High residential mobility is inferred for most of the Holocene, with radical shifts in settlement and technology throughout the region at 1,000 years ago, though there are elements of continuity. Current debates on ethnogenesis of Athapaskans and the utility of typological approaches are also discussed.
William Fitzhugh and Bernadette Driscoll Engelstad
Renderings of human figurines (inuguat) appear consistently throughout the archaeological record of the North American Arctic. Artefacts which date from the Old Bering Sea cultures in northwestern Alaska to the Dorset and Thule periods in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland include representations of the human figure, typically carved in ivory or wood. These images often reveal elemental concerns of Arctic peoples with regard to procreation, maternity, healing, shamanism, mortuary practice, and animal–human transformation. The persistent appearance of human figurines throughout the historical and contemporary periods demonstrates an abiding interest in the role of the human figure. Beyond the use of dolls as a source for children’s play, human figurines served as a means of developing skills for everyday life (and human survival) with a focus on social interaction, the hunt, and the creation of fur clothing, as well as on ceremonial activities and ritual practices.
Bradley E. Ensor
This article examines two problems on pre-Hispanic Caribbean kinship and social organization through the application of independent archaeological data. First, it discusses the limitations for direct historic analogy with early Spanish descriptions of behaviors related to social organization, postmarital residence, and succession. The article describes the problems in applying ethnohistoric reconstructions of matrilineal social organization to the pre-Hispanic societies of the region. Second, it looks at explanations for stratification that underestimate the importance of the political–economical dynamics of kinship and social organization through which status hierarchies emerged.
This broad overview considers the long discontinuous and diverse history of anthropomorphic figurine production in the ancient American Southwest. While the primary focus is on the Hohokam, Fremont, and Ancestral Pueblos, other cultural contexts are considered. Numerous figurine styles are described, as are close stylistic relationships between certain figurine traditions and rock art. Stylistic trends in the graphic rock art may have influenced the aesthetics of figurine production and vice versa. Discarded in refuse mounds, cached in association with burials and cremations or in crypts within architectural confines, figurines and their roles were diverse between cultures and changed through time. Regarded as active agents within their respective cultural frameworks, the chapter proposes that they functioned as social mediators, promoted fertility, increase, and community well-being, and as they served as conduits to the ancestors and cosmological entities.