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Hand in Hand: the Physical and Symbolic Representation of Social Bonding in the Prehistoric American Southwest.

Author(s): Claire Halley

Year: 2016

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A key theme of archaeological research in the American Southwest has been understanding the diverse ways people came together to form communities. This paper examines the physical and symbolic practice of forming social bonds through the practice of hand-holding in communal performance. Iconographic representations of hand-holding figures (on ceramic vessels and rock art) from the prehistoric period (A.D. 500 – 900) will be presented. These images provide an exceptional opportunity to explore the issue of community formation by considering the sensuous experience and symbolism encoded in these depictions. I review the physical properties of hand-holding. Bodily space boundaries are overcome when an individual takes the hand of another. Trust, confidence and bonding are implied by this simple act. When the practice is extended to include additional individuals, participants must coordinate their bodily action with others. Individuals gain a feeling of inclusion and belonging to something bigger than themselves. I develop this interpretation by proposing that the concepts of community and integration are symbolically represented through characteristic stylistic tenets which underpin the depiction of hand-holding figures. In this interpretative framework, hands are generative and socially productive media through which concepts such as identity, integration and social bonding are embodied and communicated.

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Hand in Hand: the Physical and Symbolic Representation of Social Bonding in the Prehistoric American Southwest.. Claire Halley. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403201)


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