Constructing Narratives: archaeology's relationship with the ontological turn at Cahokia

Author(s): Sarah Baires

Year: 2016


The goal of archaeology, rigorous in its method and theory, is to reconstruct past practices and events. Our pre-conceptions, knowledge, and training channel our analyses through varying theoretical lenses. These perspectives provide context within which to hypothesize about the past, creating narratives about human relationships with the environment, materials, places, and practices. While these theoretical perspectives add nuance and structure to archaeological analyses they sometimes miss, ignore, or appropriate alternate perspectives and theories. In this paper I examine the recent ontological turn in this process of constructing archaeological narratives in the context of Native North American archaeological sites. The ontological turn, no doubt, changed our engagement with Native North American history, but are we—as predominantly Western social scientists—claiming ownership of theories that were (and are) realities for many of the communities we ‘study’? Using as a case study the relationships between pre-Columbian Cahokians and their landscape, I explore how ontological theories shape our interpretations of this Native North American city. In examining the status of the ontological turn at Cahokia, I challenge my own relationship with relational theory questioning the application of a Western-derived theoretical movement to accurately engage with a Native American past.

Cite this Record

Constructing Narratives: archaeology's relationship with the ontological turn at Cahokia. Sarah Baires. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403334)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;