Visualizing the Sacred

Author: George E. Lankford
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292723085
Release Date: 2011-01-15
Genre: Social Science

The prehistoric native peoples of the Mississippi River Valley and other areas of the Eastern Woodlands of the United States shared a complex set of symbols and motifs that constituted one of the greatest artistic traditions of the pre-Columbian Americas. Traditionally known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, these artifacts of copper, shell, stone, clay, and wood were the subject of the groundbreaking 2007 book Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography, which presented a major reconstruction of the rituals, cosmology, ideology, and political structures of the Mississippian peoples. Visualizing the Sacred advances the study of Mississippian iconography by delving into the regional variations within what is now known as the Mississippian Iconographic Interaction Sphere (MIIS). Bringing archaeological, ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and iconographic perspectives to the analysis of Mississippian art, contributors from several disciplines discuss variations in symbols and motifs among major sites and regions across a wide span of time and also consider what visual symbols reveal about elite status in diverse political environments. These findings represent the first formal identification of style regions within the Mississippian Iconographic Interaction Sphere and call for a new understanding of the MIIS as a network of localized, yet interrelated religious systems that experienced both continuity and change over time.

Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms

Author: F. Kent Reilly, III
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 0292774400
Release Date: 2010-01-01
Genre: Social Science

Between AD 900-1600, the native peoples of the Mississippi River Valley and other areas of the Eastern Woodlands of the United States conceived and executed one of the greatest artistic traditions of the Precolumbian Americas. Created in the media of copper, shell, stone, clay, and wood, and incised or carved with a complex set of symbols and motifs, this seven-hundred-year-old artistic tradition functioned within a multiethnic landscape centered on communities dominated by earthen mounds and plazas. Previous researchers have referred to this material as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). This groundbreaking volume brings together ten essays by leading anthropologists, archaeologists, and art historians, who analyze the iconography of Mississippian art in order to reconstruct the ritual activities, cosmological vision, and ideology of these ancient precursors to several groups of contemporary Native Americans. Significantly, the authors correlate archaeological, ethnographic, and art historical data that illustrate the stylistic differences within Mississippian art as well as the numerous changes that occur through time. The research also demonstrates the inadequacy of the SECC label, since Mississippian art is not limited to the Southeast and reflects stylistic changes over time among several linked but distinct religious traditions. The term Mississippian Iconographic Interaction Sphere (MIIS) more adequately describes the corpus of this Mississippian art. Most important, the authors illustrate the overarching nature of the ancient Native American religious system, as a creation unique to the native American cultures of the eastern United States.

Hero Hawk and Open Hand

Author: Richard F. Townsend
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 9780300106015
Release Date: 2004
Genre: Art

Along the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi Rivers, the archaeological remains of earthen pyramids, plazas, large communities, and works of art and artifacts testify to Native American civilizations that thrived there between 3000 B.C. and A.D. 1500. This fascinating book presents exciting new information on the art and cultures of these ancient peoples and features hundreds of gorgeous photographs of important artworks, artifacts, and ritual objects excavated from Amerindian archaeological sites. Drawing on excavation findings and extensive research, the contributors to the book document a succession of distinct ancient populations in the pre-Columbian world of the American Midwest and Southeast. A team of interdisciplinary scholars examines the connections between archaeological remains of different regions and the themes, forms, and rituals that continue in specific tribes of today. The book also includes the personal reflections of contemporary Native Americans who discuss their perspectives on the significance of the fascinating and beautiful prehistoric artifacts as well as their own cultural practices today.

Star Gods of the Maya

Author: Susan Milbrath
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292778511
Release Date: 2010-01-01
Genre: Social Science

Observations of the sun, moon, planets, and stars played a central role in ancient Maya lifeways, as they do today among contemporary Maya who maintain the traditional ways. This pathfinding book reconstructs ancient Maya astronomy and cosmology through the astronomical information encoded in Precolumbian Maya art and confirmed by the current practices of living Maya peoples. Susan Milbrath opens the book with a discussion of modern Maya beliefs about astronomy, along with essential information on naked-eye observation. She devotes subsequent chapters to Precolumbian astronomical imagery, which she traces back through time, starting from the Colonial and Postclassic eras. She delves into many aspects of the Maya astronomical images, including the major astronomical gods and their associated glyphs, astronomical almanacs in the Maya codices [painted books], and changes in the imagery of the heavens over time. This investigation yields new data and a new synthesis of information about the specific astronomical events and cycles recorded in Maya art and architecture. Indeed, it constitutes the first major study of the relationship between art and astronomy in ancient Maya culture.

Picture Cave

Author: Carol Diaz-Granados
Publisher: Linda Schele Series in Maya an
ISBN: STANFORD:36105213027654
Release Date: 2015-06-15
Genre: History

A millennia ago, Native Americans entered the dark recesses of a cave in eastern Missouri and painted an astonishing array of human, animal, and supernatural creatures on its walls. Known as Picture Cave, it was a hallowed site for sacred rituals and rites of passage, for explaining the multi-layered cosmos, for vision quests, for communing with spirits in the "other world," and for burying the dead. The number, variety, and complexity of images make Picture Cave one of the most significant prehistoric sites in North America, similar in importance to Cahokia and Chaco Canyon. Indeed, scholars will be able to use it to reconstruct much of the Native American symbolism of the early Western Mississippian world. The Picture Cave Interdisciplinary Project brought together specialists in American Indian art and iconography, two artists, Osage Indian elders, a museum curator, a folklorist, and an internationally renowned cave archaeologist to produce the first complete documentation of the pictographs on the cave walls and the first interpretations of their meanings and significance. This extensively illustrated volume presents the Project's findings, including an introduction to Picture Cave and prehistoric cave art and technical analyses of pigments, radiocarbon dating, spatial order, and archaeological remains. Interpretations of the cave's imagery, from individual motifs to complex panels; the responses of contemporary artists; and interviews with Osage elders (descendants of the people who made the art), describing what Picture Cave means to them today, are also included. A visual glossary of all the images in Picture Cave as well as panoramic views complete this pathfinding volume.

The Jaguar Within

Author: Rebecca R. Stone
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292749504
Release Date: 2012-09-21
Genre: Social Science

Shamanism—the practice of entering a trance state to experience visions of a reality beyond the ordinary and to gain esoteric knowledge—has been an important part of life for indigenous societies throughout the Americas from prehistoric times until the present. Much has been written about shamanism in both scholarly and popular literature, but few authors have linked it to another significant visual realm—art. In this pioneering study, Rebecca R. Stone considers how deep familiarity with, and profound respect for, the extra-ordinary visionary experiences of shamanism profoundly affected the artistic output of indigenous cultures in Central and South America before the European invasions of the sixteenth century. Using ethnographic accounts of shamanic trance experiences, Stone defines a core set of trance vision characteristics, including enhanced senses, ego dissolution, bodily distortions, flying, spinning and undulating sensations, synaesthesia, and physical transformation from the human self into animal and other states of being. Stone then traces these visionary characteristics in ancient artworks from Costa Rica and Peru. She makes a convincing case that these works, especially those of the Moche, depict shamans in a trance state or else convey the perceptual experience of visions by creating deliberately chaotic and distorted conglomerations of partial, inverted, and incoherent images.

Early Art of the Southeastern Indians

Author: Susan C. Power
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
ISBN: 0820325015
Release Date: 2004
Genre: Art

Early Art of the Southeastern Indians is a visual journey through time, highlighting some of the most skillfully created art in native North America. The remarkable objects described and pictured here, many in full color, reveal the hands of master artists who developed lapidary and weaving traditions, established centers for production of shell and copper objects, and created the first ceramics in North America. Presenting artifacts originating in the Archaic through the Mississippian periods--from thousands of years ago through A.D. 1600--Susan C. Power introduces us to an extraordinary assortment of ceremonial and functional objects, including pipes, vessels, figurines, and much more. Drawn from every corner of the Southeast--from Louisiana to the Ohio River valley, from Florida to Oklahoma--the pieces chronicle the emergence of new media and the mastery of new techniques as they offer clues to their creators’ widening awareness of their physical and spiritual worlds. The most complex works, writes Power, were linked to male (and sometimes female) leaders. Wearing bold ensembles consisting of symbolic colors, sacred media, and richly complex designs, the leaders controlled large ceremonial centers that were noteworthy in regional art history, such as Etowah, Georgia; Spiro, Oklahoma; Cahokia, Illinois; and Moundville, Alabama. Many objects were used locally; others circulated to distant locales. Power comments on the widening of artists’ subjects, starting with animals and insects, moving to humans, then culminating in supernatural combinations of both, and she discusses how a piece’s artistic “language” could function as a visual shorthand in local style and expression, yet embody an iconography of regional proportions. The remarkable achievements of these southeastern artists delight the senses and engage the mind while giving a brief glimpse into the rich, symbolic world of feathered serpents and winged beings.

Signs of the Inka Khipu

Author: Gary Urton
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292773752
Release Date: 2009-03-06
Genre: Social Science

In an age when computers process immense amounts of information by the manipulation of sequences of 1s and 0s, it remains a frustrating mystery how prehistoric Inka recordkeepers encoded a tremendous variety and quantity of data using only knotted and dyed strings. Yet the comparison between computers and khipu may hold an important clue to deciphering the Inka records. In this book, Gary Urton sets forth a pathbreaking theory that the manipulation of fibers in the construction of khipu created physical features that constitute binary-coded sequences which store units of information in a system of binary recordkeeping that was used throughout the Inka empire. Urton begins his theory with the making of khipu, showing how at each step of the process binary, either/or choices were made. He then investigates the symbolic components of the binary coding system, the amount of information that could have been encoded, procedures that may have been used for reading the khipu, the nature of the khipu signs, and, finally, the nature of the khipu recording system itself—emphasizing relations of markedness and semantic coupling. This research constitutes a major step forward in building a unified theory of the khipu system of information storage and communication based on the sum total of construction features making up these extraordinary objects.

Sun Circles and Human Hands

Author: Emma Lila Fundaburk
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
ISBN: 9780817310776
Release Date: 2001-02-22
Genre: History

From utilitarian arrowheads to beautiful stone effigy pipes to ornately-carved shell disks, the photographs and drawings in Sun Circles and Human Hands present the archaeological record of the art and native crafts of the prehistoric southeastern Indians, painstakingly compiled in the 1950s by two sisters who traveled the eastern United States interviewing archaeologists and collectors and visiting the major repositories. Although research over the last 50 years has disproven many of the early theories reported in the text—which were not the editors' theories but those of the archaeologists of the day—the excellent illustrations of objects no longer available for examination have more than validated the lasting worth of this popular book.

Heaven and Earth in Ancient Mexico

Author: Susan Milbrath
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292743731
Release Date: 2013-02-22
Genre: Social Science

The Codex Borgia, a masterpiece that predates the Spanish conquest of central Mexico, records almanacs used in divination and astronomy. Within its beautifully painted screenfold pages is a section (pages 29–46) that shows a sequence of enigmatic pictures that have been the subject of debate for more than a century. Bringing insights from ethnohistory, anthropology, art history, and archaeoastronomy to bear on this passage, Susan Milbrath presents a convincing new interpretation of Borgia 29–46 as a narrative of noteworthy astronomical events that occurred over the course of the year AD 1495–1496, set in the context of the central Mexican festival calendar. In contrast to scholars who have interpreted Borgia 29–46 as a mythic history of the heavens and the earth, Milbrath demonstrates that the narrative documents ancient Mesoamericans' understanding of real-time astronomy and natural history. Interpreting the screenfold's complex symbols in light of known astronomical events, she finds that Borgia 29–46 records such phenomena as a total solar eclipse in August 1496, a November meteor shower, a comet first sighted in February 1496, and the changing phases of Venus and Mercury. She also shows how the narrative is organized according to the eighteen-month festival calendar and how seasonal cycles in nature are represented in its imagery. This new understanding of the content and purpose of the Codex Borgia reveals this long-misunderstood narrative as the most important historical record of central Mexican astronomy on the eve of the Spanish conquest.

Connections

Author: Edward H. Judge
Publisher: Pearson College Division
ISBN: 0133849538
Release Date: 2015-03-02
Genre: Education


Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture

Author: Carolyn E. Tate
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9780292742567
Release Date: 2012-08-24
Genre: Social Science

Recently, scholars of Olmec visual culture have identified symbols for umbilical cords, bundles, and cave-wombs, as well as a significant number of women portrayed on monuments and as figurines. In this groundbreaking study, Carolyn Tate demonstrates that these subjects were part of a major emphasis on gestational imagery in Formative Period Mesoamerica. In Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture, she identifies the presence of women, human embryos, and fetuses in monuments and portable objects dating from 1400 to 400 BC and originating throughout much of Mesoamerica. This highly original study sheds new light on the prominent roles that women and gestational beings played in Early Formative societies, revealing female shamanic practices, the generative concepts that motivated caching and bundling, and the expression of feminine knowledge in the 260-day cycle and related divinatory and ritual activities. Reconsidering Olmec Visual Culture is the first study that situates the unique hollow babies of Formative Mesoamerica within the context of prominent females and the prevalent imagery of gestation and birth. It is also the first major art historical study of La Venta and the first to identify Mesoamerica's earliest creation narrative. It provides a more nuanced understanding of how later societies, including Teotihuacan and West Mexico, as well as the Maya, either rejected certain Formative Period visual forms, rituals, social roles, and concepts or adopted and transformed them into the enduring themes of Mesoamerican symbol systems.

Archaic States

Author: Gary M. Feinman
Publisher: School for Advanced Research on the
ISBN: 0933452985
Release Date: 1998-01
Genre: Social Science

In this volume, the authors highlight the diversity and instability of ancient states and how widely they have varied through time and across space. Archaic States presents new comparative studies of early states in the Old and New Worlds, including the Near East, India and Pakistan, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and the Andes. In the process, it helps to define key avenues for research and discussion in the decades ahead.

Reading Maya Art

Author: Andrea Joyce Stone
Publisher:
ISBN: 0500051682
Release Date: 2011
Genre: Art

Presented here for the first time is a compendium of one hundred hieroglyphs that are also building blocks of ancient Maya painting and sculpture. Organized thematically, the symbols touch on many facets of the Maya world, from the natural environment animals, plants, the heavens to the metaphysical landscape of gods, myths and rituals. Using over five hundred line drawings and photographs, Andrea Stone and Marc Zender show how to identify these signs, understand their meaning, and appreciate the novel ways they appear in art. In addition to providing a clear and accessible introduction to Maya art, linguistics and writing, the authors also offer many new and exciting interpretations. Lavishly illustrated, fully cross-referenced and indexed, this remarkable and innovative guide will prove an invaluable tool for those wishing to see Maya art, perhaps for the first time, through the eyes of ancient scribes and artists.

The Archaeology and Politics of Food and Feasting in Early States and Empires

Author: Tamara L. Bray
Publisher: Springer Science & Business Media
ISBN: 9780306477300
Release Date: 2003-07-31
Genre: History

Food, along with sex, has long been recognised as one of the most important mainstays of, not only the essence of life, but also of politics. These ten essays present comparative case studies from the Old and New Worlds addressing the political connotations of food and feasting and highlighting the use of 'culinary equipment as a window into the commensual politics of early states and empires'. The contributors present evidence from early Mesopotamia, Egypt, early China, pre-Inca, Inca, Mesoamerican and Aztec societies, looking at the symbolic and political use of food, and at whether feasting was used to create and enforce social boundaries, gender distinctions, social hierarchies, male dominance and so on. Contributors include: