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The Poetics of Corpse Fragmentation and Processing in the Ancient Southwest

Author(s): Debra Martin ; Anna Ostenholtz

Year: 2016

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Summary

The bioarchaeological record in the ancient Southwest has an abundance of evidence of disarticulated remains to suggest a long history of body (corpse) processing and fragmentation. From AD 800 to the 1500s, various assemblages of processed human remains have been recovered. Published studies of these have argued for a wide range of motivations that could account for such assemblages including anthropophagy/cannibalism, massacres, torture, witch executions, ritualized violence, warfare, raiding and captive-taking. Using a fine-grained bioarchaeological approach to re-imagine the diverse actions taken by the living as related and connected, a different set of motivations emerges. Using a poetics of violence approach (as imagined by Neil Whitehead) provides a different way of thinking about these disparate bone assemblages. Moreover, identifying culturally-specific patterns related to age, sex, and social status provides an increasingly complex picture of early small-scale groups. Some forms of cultural violence have restorative and regenerative aspects that strengthen community identity. Bioarchaeological data can shed light on the ways that violence becomes part of a given cultural landscape. Viewed using a poetics framework, the dismemberment and disarticulation of bodies can be seen as constitutive of social relations and identities and not of cultural rupture, violence and chaos.


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The Poetics of Corpse Fragmentation and Processing in the Ancient Southwest. Debra Martin, Anna Ostenholtz. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403081)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America