Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient Mesoamerica

Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient Mesoamerica

NANCY GONLIN
JON C. LOHSE
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nsvt
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    Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient Mesoamerica
    Book Description:

    Were most commoners in ancient Mesoamerica poor? In a material sense, yes, probably so. Were they poor in their beliefs and culture? Certainly not, as Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient Mesoamerica demonstrates. This volume explores the ritual life of Mesoamerica's common citizens, inside and outside of the domestic sphere, from Formative through Postclassic periods. Building from the premise that ritual and ideological expression inhered at all levels of society in Mesoamerica, the contributors demonstrate that ideology did not emanate solely from exalted individuals and that commoner ritual expression was not limited to household contexts. Taking an empirical approach to this under-studied and under-theorized area, contributors use material evidence to discover how commoner status conditioned the expression of ideas and values. Revealing complex social hierarchies that varied across time and region, this volume offers theoretical approaches to commoner ideology, religious practice, and sociopolitical organization and builds a framework for future study of the correlation of ritual and ideological expression with social position for Mesoamericanists and archaeologists worldwide.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-920-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xvii-xlii)
    Jon C. Lohse and Nancy Gonlin
  6. CHAPTER ONE COMMONER RITUAL, COMMONER IDEOLOGY: (Sub-)Alternate Views of Social Complexity in Prehispanic Mesoamerica
    (pp. 1-32)
    Jon C. Lohse

    The purpose of this volume is to elucidate the roles of commoners in ancient Mesoamerica as active ideological agents who participated in numerous ways in religious expression and ritual practice. The lacunae in understanding these roles is somewhat understandable given that ritual, religion, and ideology cut across multiple avenues of research, creating a challenge to scholars seeking to understand the different ways in which members of societies express shared belief systems. Given, however, that non-elites are frequently omitted from hypotheses or conclusions regarding ritual behavior and religious expression, at least in any capacity beyond being modeled as inert supplicants (a...

  7. CHAPTER TWO TRADITION AND TRANSFORMATION: Village Ritual at Tetimpa as a Template for Early Teotihuacan
    (pp. 33-54)
    Gabriela Uruñuela and Patricia Plunket

    Fifty years ago Robert Redfield divided the educated elite and the illiterate peasants into two categories when he wrote of the ʺgreat tradition of the reflective few, and [the] … little tradition of the largely unreflective manyʺ (1956:41–42). Although he perhaps envisioned more of a continuum than an opposition, during the past few decades anthropological thought has favored a paradigm rooted in the interaction between these extremes, an intricate and complex interplay between local village religiosity and the more formal and grandiose manifestations of citified state religion (McAnany 2002; Smith 2002). In this chapter, we explore this relationship by...

  8. CHAPTER THREE COMMONER RITUAL AT TEOTIHUACAN, CENTRAL MEXICO: Methodological Considerations
    (pp. 55-82)
    Luis Barba, Agustín Ortiz and Linda Manzanilla

    Prehispanic societies were integrated by different means. No one can doubt that ritual was one of the main integrative mechanisms, because it ʺlinks generations, unites men from different descent groups, unites women from different families, [and] connects the living to their ancestorsʺ (Marcus 1998:1). As Marcus puts it, ritual is important in creating public spaces and structures but is also visible in the domestic domain. In village societies, women played an important role in domestic ritual (Marcus 1998), but in urban societies other participants were added to domestic ritual not only to communicate with the ancestors but also to offer...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR RITUAL AND IDEOLOGY AMONG CLASSIC MAYA RURAL COMMONERS AT COPÁN, HONDURAS
    (pp. 83-122)
    Nancy Gonlin

    The most visible remains of Central Americaʹs and Mexicoʹs Classic Maya (a.d. 250–900) culture are the stone temples towering amidst jungle overgrowth, grand palaces, tombs laden with exotic objects, elaborate sculptures, and hieroglyphs, all of which in some way relate to ancient ideologies and worldviews. One rarely conjures up the remains of a humble household when asked to visualize the Classic Maya. Presumably, contained in these monuments of the past is abundant evidence for the multiple perspectives of elites during Classic times (e.g., Miller and Martin 2004; inter alia). The majority of people, however, fulfilled productive and supportive roles...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE SMOKE, SOOT, AND CENSERS: A Perspective on Ancient Commoner Household Ritual Behavior from the Naco Valley, Honduras
    (pp. 123-142)
    John G. Douglass

    Across time and space in Mesoamerica, household ritual behavior has been viewed as an important facet of everyday life. Research, however, has primarily focused on elite ritual behavior, with little attention paid to ritual behavior of commoner households. This chapter examines household-level ritual behavior at Late Classic (a.d. 600–950) rural and urban households identified in the Naco Valley of northwest Honduras, including the context of household ritual in the surrounding landscape (Figures 0.1 and 0.2). I begin with a discussion of ritual landscapes, followed by a brief summary of past research in the Naco Valley. Next, I describe specific...

  11. CHAPTER SIX COMMONER RITUALS, RESISTANCE, AND THE CLASSIC-TO-POSTCLASSIC TRANSITION IN ANCIENT MESOAMERICA
    (pp. 143-184)
    Arthur A. Joyce and Errin T. Weller

    Early Colonial period documents in Mesoamerica provide many examples of expressions of resistance and rebellion by indigenous peoples against Spanish colonial authorities (Jones 1989; Restall 1997; Terraciano 2001). Yet within these documents there are occasional references to the discontent of common people toward indigenous nobles who in some areas continued to exert considerable power over their subjects for centuries after the Conquest. For example, in the Maya Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, people are said to lament the hardships that a warlike leader imposes on subjects because of military drafts, famine, and strife resulting from frequent warfare (McAnany 1995:...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN SHRINES, OFFERINGS, AND POSTCLASSIC CONTINUITY IN ZAPOTEC RELIGION
    (pp. 185-212)
    Marcus Winter, Robert Markens, Cira Martínez López and Alicia Herrera Muzgo T.

    One of the most drastic changes in prehispanic Mesoamerica occurred around a.d. 800 with the demographic and political decline of a number of the great Classic period centers: Teotihuacan in Central Mexico; Tikal, Palenque, and many others in the Maya area; and Monte Albán in Oaxaca (Figures 0.1 and 0.2). In the subsequent Early Postclassic period, new centers arose in some regions, such as Tula in Central Mexico and Chichén Itzá in the Maya area. In other regions, notably highland Oaxaca, populations remained relatively low during several centuries, and no large communities appeared until the Late Postclassic.

    Why a large...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT ALTAR EGOS: Domestic Ritual and Social Identity in Postclassic Cholula, Mexico
    (pp. 213-250)
    Geoffrey G. McCafferty

    Domestic ritual is a defining practice in social reproduction. It can provide significant points of contrast for distinguishing social identities, such as ethnicity, gender, class, and religion—defining the ʺusʺ as opposed to the ʺthem.ʺ It can take different forms, including religious and secular celebrations, as well as mundane practices such as cooking, childcare, and yard work. Behavioral associations constitute fundamental elements in definitions of self, whereas shared rituals are primordial processes for the construction of group identity. Objects of domestic ritual frame these shared moments, serving as materializations of emotional ties. Christmas decorations and wedding rings are passed down...

  14. CHAPTER NINE A SOCIOECONOMIC INTERPRETATION OF FIGURINE ASSEMBLAGES FROM LATE POSTCLASSIC MORELOS, MEXICO
    (pp. 251-280)
    Jan Olson

    The tradition of producing, trading, and consuming ceramic figurines was of great significance in the religion of Central Mexican Postclassic cultures. Figurines with images depicting women, men, plants, animals, temples, and deities have been found in public arenas (e.g., temples) but more notably in domestic contexts (e.g., middens). Unfortunately, although early Spanish chroniclers described the public religion as including processions, offerings, and sacrifices, they neglected to mention domestic activities and rituals (cf. Durán 1971:272; Ruiz de Alarcón 1984:49–63). Thus, they left almost no ethnohistoric information on the use or significance of small ceramic figurines commonly found in the domestic...

  15. CHAPTER TEN STEPS TO A HOLISTIC HOUSEHOLD ARCHAEOLOGY
    (pp. 281-294)
    Mark W. Mehrer

    Mesoamerica offers the archaeologist interested in commoner ritual and ideology a rich prehistory, a written record of ancient practices, an ethnohistorical record of contact times, and some modern groups who have maintained strong continuities with their past. This bookʹs treatment of these topics encourages a new theoretical approach that balances the ancient lives. Commoner and elite are incorporated into our modern understanding of the past, a treatment that promises continuing invigoration of Americanist archaeology. The volumeʹs issues have roots in household archaeology as it has developed during the last thirty years or so (e.g., Flannery 1976; Flannery and Winter 1976)....

  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 295-296)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 297-304)