Kevin Conti and William Walker
This chapter explores the performance of light and shadows in two ancestral Pueblo rock art sites in southeast Utah. These sites possess anthropomorphic rock faces and modified features to create both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images that we argue derive from mythological traditions of Pueblo peoples. Specifically, light/shadow patterns at these sites produce and interact with Bear and War Twin imagery on prominent dates of the solar calendar. Traditionally such imagery would be approached through rock art studies in terms of motifs and symbolic interpretations. The celestial component would be addressed by archaeoastronomers. Using object agency theory, we seek to contextualize these data as places where people communicated with their Bear and War Twin deities.
Ruth M. Van Dyke
In the southwest United States, high altitudes, open vistas, and cloudless skies create a visual atmosphere where the light is legendary. I focus on the role of light for the people of Chaco Canyon—a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage centre in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico. Here, worldviews and cosmologies involved the dualistic juxtaposition of light and dark, visible and invisible, sun and moon. The movements of celestial bodies in a clear sky, and the presence of open sightlines with distinctive peaks, contributed to the creation of a complex cosmography. Sun and moon, visibility and invisibility, light and darkness opposed one another and revolved around Chaco Canyon—the centre of the ancient Chacoan world.
Menno L. P. Hoogland and Corinne L. Hofman
Archaeothanatology has recently been introduced to the Caribbean for the study of both the precolonial and colonial burial assemblages. By drawing on a multidisciplinary approach and laying emphasis on the taphonomic processes, this article sheds light on the complexity and diversity of mortuary behavior in the Ceramic Age Lesser Antilles. Although mortuary treatment is often regarded as a representation of the social personae of an individual at death, the examples in this article show that rules are fluid and mortuary treatment is open to manipulation. In addition to a number of general commonalities encountered in the various burial assemblages through time, there is a clear emphasis on the individual treatment of the dead, resulting in unique cases of mortuary behavior.
Ruth Van Dyke
For indigenous peoples in the Southwest, sacred geographies are bound up with histories, religious practices, and cosmologies. Axis mundi and memory anchors create connections across spatial and temporal realities. High places (peaks, mesas) are the home of mythic beings or entry points into a world above. Openings in the earth (canyons, springs) lead to a world below. Special places demarcate cosmologies on current (Tewa) and ancient (Chaco Canyon) landscapes. Sacred geographies are marked by shrines, rock art, votive deposits, trails, alignments, and archaeological sites. Pilgrimages are undertaken to natural and archaeological memory anchors and axis mundi. Sacred places are increasingly threatened by groups with divergent interests.
Scott Van Keuren and William H. Walker
This chapter explores how the lives of ancient peoples in the Southwest were guided by their engagement with spirit worlds. From artifacts to architecture, the material record reflects visions of the universe, mythological narratives, and otherworldly entities. As archaeology has turned its attention to ancient religion and ritual, Southwest scholars are expanding their interpretations of these central dimensions of ancient ecologies. This theoretical turn reflects broader changes in the field as well as collaborations with descendant communities. The chapter builds on contemporary theory as well as classic ethnographies to show how spirit worlds may have been engaged and materialized in the ancient Southwest.