Ancestors and Ancestral Spirits: Understanding the Spirits of the Dead in Prehispanic Settlements of the American Southeast and Southwest
Author(s): M Thompson
This paper addresses the social memories and identities of the spirits of the dead in the Prehispanic American Southeast and Southwest to consider their involvement in socio-political affairs. I argue that archaeology can begin to identify different kinds of spirits in the mortuary record, and that these spirits play different, unique roles in respective communities. I describe an effort to recognize ancestors, ancestral spirits, and/or collective groups of the dead in a Mississippian period village on the Georgia coast and two Protohistoric period towns at Zuni. The study involves a comparative mortuary analysis that examines the performance of mortuary ritual at the Irene Mounds site in Georgia and at the Zuni towns Hawikku and Kechiba:wa. Here, I focus on a multivariate statistical approach for characterizing and interpreting body treatment in the mortuary record. Analysis results highlight the memories and identities that the living created for the spirits of the dead in these settlements and emphasize the relationships that people maintained with these beings. This work encourages us to recognize that Prehispanic communities of the Southeast and the Southwest were composed of both the living and the spirits of the dead.
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Ancestors and Ancestral Spirits: Understanding the Spirits of the Dead in Prehispanic Settlements of the American Southeast and Southwest. M Thompson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398328)