Earth Offerings as Sacrifice in Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca

Author(s): Arthur Joyce; Sarah Barber; Jeffrey Brzezinski

Year: 2016


This paper considers the relationship between sacrifice and the people, practices, and objects assembled on later Formative period public buildings in the lower Río Verde Valley, Oaxaca. Excavations in public buildings at numerous sites in the region have found evidence for ceremonial practices including the emplacement of earth offerings, the interment of human bodies in cemeteries, and ritual feasting. The objects emplaced in public buildings as offerings included ceramic vessels, greenstone, crystal, and animals. Using ethnohistoric and comparative archaeological evidence, we argue that the emplacement of objects and human bodies were simultaneously acts that ensouled and fed animate buildings as well as forms of sacrifice through which people negotiated their relationships with divinities and other universal forces. In feasting people shared in the sustenance provided by deities in return for acts of feeding/sacrifice. The entities assembled on public buildings therefore suggest that transactions between humans and divinities were alimentary in form, defining a Formative-period version of the sacred covenant documented in late prehispanic and early colonial texts and inferred from representational art found in the lower Verde and elsewhere in Formative Mesoamerica. These sacrificial acts were also cosmogenic in that they reenacted the cosmic creation and renewed the world.

Cite this Record

Earth Offerings as Sacrifice in Formative Period Coastal Oaxaca. Arthur Joyce, Sarah Barber, Jeffrey Brzezinski. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402884)


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