Women, Reproduction, and Fertility: How "Common-Sense" Assumptions of the Present Filter into the Mesoamerican Past

Author(s): Shankari Patel

Year: 2015


This paper queries models of Mesoamerican fertility that define women’s social roles in terms of dependency, and interrogates narratives that link gender relations to nature where they are beyond critique. The problem with the category women is that it is often thought of as an ahistorical and eternal facet of biology hidden within an implicit model of human nature. Biology becomes a metaphor for social relations and wifehood or motherhood is then characterized as a relation of dependency effectively excluding women from any other cultural contributions to society. The portrayal of women in Mesoamerican archaeological discussions of fertility rituals and goddess cults has reproduced sexist understandings of the past. Using research on the Nepean Collection, the largest collection of artifacts from the Postclassic (A.D. 900-1519) pilgrimage site of Isla de Sacrificios in ancient Mexico, this paper highlight’s women’s important economic, political, and religious contributions to Mesoamerican society. This paper also reclaims and refashions the Mesoamerican fertility narrative by demonstrating that ancient women controlled their reproduction rights within the context of Postclassic religious practices.

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

Women, Reproduction, and Fertility: How "Common-Sense" Assumptions of the Present Filter into the Mesoamerican Past. Shankari Patel. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395769)


Mexico Religion women

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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