Why Pilgrimage? The Ethnography and Archaeology of Journeys to the Center

Author(s): Alan Sandstrom

Year: 2015


Pilgrimage is a "dynamic concrete isolate" found throughout the world at all levels of socio-cultural integration. Pilgrimage involves a journey to a significant geographic location and a return to the place of origin. Pilgrimage shades into tourism and a pilgrim's destination may range from the site of a miraculous appearance of a deity to Graceland. In Mesoamerica, pilgrimage has become a major focus of archaeological research. Sites with ritual associations and little evidence of habitation are routinely interpreted as pilgrimage centers. Pilgrimage and the meanings attached to it are also a recent focus of our own ethnographic research among Nahua people of the Huasteca. Contemporary indigenous and as well as non-indigenous participants continue the ancient pilgrimage tradition throughout Mesoamerica. We see pilgrimage as a means for people to escape the confines of a rigid social structure, introduce innovation into the system, and reset social relations without threatening the overall system. Pilgrimage has the potential to allow people to escape a social straitjacket while at the same time demonstrating commitment to cultural values embodied in a significant site. We dedicate this presentation to the ethnographic researches of Frannie Berdan, and especially her work among Nahuas in the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Why Pilgrimage? The Ethnography and Archaeology of Journeys to the Center. Alan Sandstrom. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395701)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;