See How We Are: Representing Identity in the Ancient Americas

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

“Identity” is a broad term that can be used in a number of ways, with varying meanings. Focusing on the definition “presentation of a group or individual's perceived qualities to other members of the group or to outsiders,” this session explores the way in which identity has been defined in the Pre-Columbian Americas. Identity types can be political, ethnic, social, gendered, or involve leadership, while strategies of representation may include landscape modification, architecture, body modification, costume, or visual arts. Chief among the questions to be explored is what kinds of identities were important, and what strategies for representing membership in an identity group were used. Issues of alterity, propaganda, and conflict, as well as the creation and maintenance of normative structures, are explored.

Other Keywords
IdentityCeramicsDressSocial IdentityGendersacrificeAztecmortuaryandesMaize

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-15 of 15)

  • Documents (15)

  • Community and Ancestors in the Titicaca Basin during the Formative Period (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sara Juengst.

    The Formative Period (1500 BC-AD 200) in the Titicaca Basin was a time of important social and economic changes, such as the establishment of sedentary settlements and long distance trade routes, increasing horticultural investment, and an emerging regional ritual tradition, Yaya-Mama. However, while archaeologists have documented and described these changes, less is understood about how they impacted local communities. In particular, Yaya-Mama has been interpreted in a variety of ways: as a...

  • Cross-dressing to Complement the King: Eco-iconography of the Aztec Cihuacoatl’s Costume (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lois Martin.

    Co-regents led the Aztec state: the principal Tlatoani, "supreme speaker," and his second, the Cihuacoatl, "Woman Snake," also the name of a fearsome goddess. The complementary rulers reflected Aztec notions of cosmic balance between opposites: while the male king directed external military campaigns during the dry season ("the day sun"), the Cihuacoatl managed internal affairs, especially agriculture, during the rainy season, or "night sun." A ruthless and visionary individual named Tlacaelel...

  • Evolving Identities in Early Andean Art: Figurative Ceramics from Ancient Ecuador (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only James Farmer.

    For nearly 5000 years, between c.4,000 BCE and 500 CE, a continuous tradition of figurative ceramics evolved in ancient present-day Ecuador. Though known only through now-anonymous archaeological remains, this tradition represents some of the earliest dated sculptural and ceramic art forms in all of ancient America. At least five distinct, chronologically sequential styles have long been recognized in this tradition, beginning with the earliest Valdivia style and continuing with subsequent...

  • The Expression of Human Identity on Wari Faceneck Vessels (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrea Vazquez.

    For the Wari civilization of the ancient Andes, the production and distribution of prestigious ceramics painted with religious and secular iconography likely functioned as a type of materialized ideology that contributed to the Wari agenda of imperial expansion. One particular ceramic form favored by the Wari was the faceneck vessel: a tall-necked globular vessel with a human face sculpted onto the base of the neck. These anthropomorphic vessels have been found in elite tombs and offering...

  • Head Motifs on Cupisnique Style Ceramics: Emblems of Cultural Identity in Early Andean Art (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Yumi Huntington.

    The term "Cupisnique" is applied to the culture and artifacts found in the Cupisnique ravine located between the Jequetepeque and Chicama valleys of northern Peru. Most Cupisnique-style ceramics were created between approximately 1200 and 200 BCE. These artifacts are characterized by stirrup spouts, dark black or brown hues, and engraved head motifs on well-polished surfaces. Previous scholars have emphasized religious interpretations of these ceramics, arguing that Cupisnique head motifs depict...

  • High and Low: Highland and Coastal Dress in the Andean Region, 100-800 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarahh Scher.

    Dress can be a key aspect of stating a cultural or ethnic identity. Garment shapes, textile techniques, and accessories all contribute to creating a particular ensemble that can define a group identity. This effect can be heightened in the representation of dress, as the artist and patrons decide what are the essential elements that are worth depicting, and as the medium of representation dictates what can and cannot be conveyed visually. This paper examines the similarities and differences in...

    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ann Peters.

    Does a Paracas Necropolis mortuary bundle represent the identity of the individual at its core, those who honored that person, or a broader social network? Extraordinary aspects of these mortuary bundles include the quantity and quality of the layered garments and their diverse styles and imagery. Data related to their production indicates their origin in many different communities directly engaged in textile production, agriculture and herding, as well as the management of natural resources...

  • Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Gulf Coast Olmec Sex, Gender, and Dress as Reflected in the San Bartolo Murals (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Billie Follensbee.

    The murals within the Pinturas structure at the site of San Bartolo, Guatemala have provided invaluable information for understanding the Late Formative period Maya, as well as for understanding their emulation, adoption, and adaptation of Epi-Olmec culture, religion, and iconography. As noted by a number of scholars, the figures depicted in the murals have the distinctive, graceful, and relatively naturalistic body forms of early Maya images, but the facial types, clothing, and adornments...

  • Intersecting Identities in Southeastern U.S. Prehistory (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Janet Levy.

    Archaeological evidence from the southeastern and mid-south regions of the U.S. suggest that dress, personal ornamentation, and body modification were key strategies for presenting the self during later prehistory. These markers were apparently deployed to designate multiple and intersecting aspects of identity, including gender, age, community affiliation, and leadership status. Evidence comes from recovered artifacts, human burials, and representational images of humans. Some archaeologists...

  • Phased Out: The Distinctive Identities of Late Mississippian Communities in Eastern Tennessee (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lynne Sullivan. Michaelyn Harle.

    An often-made presumption is that an archaeological phase (defined mainly by pottery or projectile point types) represents a social group with shared identity. This perspective can conceal other types of cultural variation and practices that may be more significant for presenting and representing group identity. The broadly–defined Dallas Phase in the Upper Tennessee Valley provides a late Mississippian-period example of this type of presumption. While there are broad similarities in pottery...

  • Ramada Textiles from Southern Peru: Death’s Social Skins (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michele Smith. Juana Lazo. Alan Coogan. Maria Cecilia Lozada.

    Textiles from the Ramada culture of southern Peru are currently understudied and poorly understood. Recent research in the Vitor Valley suggests that the Ramada culture was a regional Early Intermediate-to-Middle Horizon cultural manifestation, contemporary with both Nazca, to the northwest, and the Wari traditions, but with its own distinct expressions of cultural identity. This paper presents preliminary analyses, using archaeological textiles from a cemetery dated to 550AD, which suggest that...

  • Representing and Negotiating Moche Identity in Everyday Life (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erell Hubert.

    Material culture used in daily practices plays a crucial role in mediating personal experiences, social identities, and wider socio-political phenomena. Based on my doctoral dissertation, I more specifically explore the ways miniature anthropomorphic figures used mostly in domestic contexts participated in the negotiation of the identities of Moche colonists settling in the Santa Valley (north coast of Peru) between the fifth and the ninth century AD. Figurines in particular seem to have played...

  • Sacrifice and Social Identity: Untangling Identity from a Mass Burial at Matrix 101, Huaca Las Ventanas, Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenna Hurtubise. Haagen Klaus. José Pinilla. Carlos Elera.

    Typically, burials are laden with symbols of social identity such as age, sex, and wealth of grave goods. However, conceptualizing individual or group identity can become problematic when examining non-modal or deviant burials. During the 2011-2013 field seasons, the National Sicán Museum and the Lambayeque Valley Biohistory Project recovered over 200 individuals from a Late Middle Sicán (A.D 1050 - 1100) sacrificial context designated Matrix 101. Constructed in three separate phases during a...

  • Scaling the Huaca: Constructing Late Moche Identity through Architectonic Re-presentation of Place at Huaca Colorada, Jequetepeque Valley, Peru (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Giles Spence-Morrow.

    Following Descola’s "modes of identification", Andean ontology has recently been suggested to represent a combination of animism and analogism that establishes strong intersubjective relationships wherein humans, objects and places are intrinsically linked while simultaneously creating a highly hierarchical scale based on the properties of each autonomous entity. In order to operationalize this animistic-analogical ontology, mimetic processes of imitation and transformation serve to link and...

  • Visual Representations and Entanglements: Photography and Native Identity-Making in the Classroom and Museum (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paige Bardolph. Dana Bardolph.

    This paper examines politics of representation of Native North American communities, past and present, through the use of photographs in academic and museum settings. We consider how photographs of people and objects have been used to naturalize precepts of colonialism, as well as how they have been used to empower indigenous subjects. The implementation of NAGPRA has provided a framework for museums to determine if they should display certain objects deemed culturally sensitive; however, there...