Ashes, Arrows, and Sorcerers

Author(s): Judy Berryman; William H. Walker

Year: 2018


Magic and witchcraft, like many classic topics in the anthropology of religion, involve everyday things such as dogs, plant pollen, ashes, and arrow points. As such the archaeological record offers a rich source of ancient religious practices if we can link formation of its deposits to past ritual activities. For example, strata exhibiting ash and projectile points deposited on floors and in the fill of abandoned houses may derive from protective magic. Rather than haphazardly tossed hearth detritus and/or lost arrow points, these common deposits may reveal uncommon evidence of ritual reactions to malevolent power. In the ethnographic record of the American Southwest, ash and projectiles points offer protection against death and sickness caused by witchcraft and sorcery. Our case study at Cottonwood Spring Pueblo, a late prehistoric village (A.D. 1300-1450) in southern New Mexico, demonstrates that ash and arrow points prophylactically protected these places and their former occupants from harm.

Cite this Record

Ashes, Arrows, and Sorcerers. Judy Berryman, William H. Walker. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443947)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20017