Exploring the Role of Fire in Tarascan Ritual Contexts of the Zacapu Basin, Michoacan, Mexico

Author(s): Michelle Elliott; Grégory Pereira

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Journeying to the South, from Mimbres (New Mexico) to Malpaso (Zacatecas) and Beyond: Papers in Honor of Ben A. Nelson" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Studies of ritual activities often focus on paraphernalia, architectural structures, and other aspects of performance. While these are all important features, other more subtle elements that are nevertheless crucial to these activities are often not considered in detail. Today we present an overview of our ongoing study of the role of fire and flames in Postclassic Tarascan ritual. Although ethnohistoric sources provide many interesting clues regarding these practices, they have still not been well characterized by archaeologists. Fire was omnipresent in Tarascan society, appearing in domestic and public contexts, and served a variety of needs ranging from the quotidian to more specialized practices. Through a study of charcoal remains, hearths, and other loci of combustion in a variety of contexts at the site of Malpais Prieto, in the Zacapu Basin of northern Michoacán, we demonstrate that a wide range of fire-related activities existed, most (if not all) of which can be linked to ritual practice or beliefs. Our findings indicate that the boundary between ritual and ordinary activities was often quite blurred, and that the sacred qualities of fire permeated Tarascan life, from intricately structured, state-sponsored ceremonies, to basic tasks in daily domestic life.

Cite this Record

Exploring the Role of Fire in Tarascan Ritual Contexts of the Zacapu Basin, Michoacan, Mexico. Michelle Elliott, Grégory Pereira. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451515)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.117; min lat: 16.468 ; max long: -100.173; max lat: 23.685 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23641