What’s Really Important in the Ethnohistory of Sonora?

Author(s): Matthew Pailes

Year: 2018


Analysis of Contact Era ethno-historical accounts has played an outsized role in the interpretation of protohistoric Sonora, Mexico. Controversy surrounds interpretations, owing to incongruities between archaeological and textual data as well as disagreements over how to weight the disparate observations made in these documents. Modern researchers variably evaluate the biases, motives, and the overall truthfulness of the authors of these documents. Another issue is the general subjectivity involved in fitting non-systematic observations into pre-existing anthropological models; usually some support can be found for almost any position. This presentation will attempt to address some of these issues by applying a formulaic approach to the weighting of document subject matter. While there is still subjectivity involved in the method, it provides a consistent and replicable means of evaluating the importance of different themes in a text. These themes can then be interpreted to infer both biases of the author and the relative significance of observations regarding Indigenous social organization. A trial attempt at this approach supports many pre-existing interpretations but also suggests some of the topics previously identified as paramount in the social organization of Contact era Sonora are of secondary importance.

Cite this Record

What’s Really Important in the Ethnohistory of Sonora?. Matthew Pailes. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443723)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 19970