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Shape Shifters, Spirit Guides, and Portals to Other Worlds in Puebloan Rock Images of the Southwest

Author(s): Matthew Schmader

Year: 2016

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Rock imagery in the puebloan region of the southwestern United States often combines elements from different animal, human, and plant sources. Blended elements may depict or refer to other-wordly states of being. Beings made from combined elements shift from shapes familiar in the present world and transport the frame of reference to the spirit world. Specific animal forms may be selected because they are spirit guides, have specific powers, or are guardians of cardinal directions from mythical times. Other worlds, especially the world below, may refer to mythical times before animals and people were fully formed, or may refer to the land of the dead or the underworld. Some animals, such as birds, are chosen as messengers of prayers or offerings while others are chosen because of their healing powers (such as bears). Many images refer to the transformation that occurs when dancers wear kachina masks and then assume the attributes of those kachinas. Examples will be presented from images dating to the late pre-European contact (AD 1300 to AD 1540) found in Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico.

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Cite this Record

Shape Shifters, Spirit Guides, and Portals to Other Worlds in Puebloan Rock Images of the Southwest. Matthew Schmader. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403466)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

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