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PERFORMING POWER

Identity, ritual, and materiality in a Late Classic southeast Mesoamerican crafting community

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2007

Abstract

Archaeological research can draw on material remains to understand the ways that individuals may have expressed their identities in pursuit of specific goals. Here ritual performances in ancient Mesoamerica are considered for their role in shaping identities deployed to gain social and political power. The Late to Terminal Classic period (a.d. 650–960) site of Las Canoas, Honduras, is offered as a case study. In particular, the monumental Main Plaza Group at Las Canoas is examined as a spatial setting for the performance of rituals involving the use of incense burners and ceramic anthropomorphic figurines. These performances are argued to have facilitated the efforts of certain members of the community to take advantage of shifting political and economic alliances in the region and make a bid for power. Ultimately, however, their efforts to establish spiritual and political leadership did not endure.

Resumen

Este trabajo trata la materialidad del ritual en la Mesoamérica precolombina, con la habilidad que tiene la ejecución ritual de integrar las comunidades y generar diferencias de estatus dentro de ellas, y con la naturaleza de la identidad en sí misma. Investiga la integración de estos temas, sosteniendo que las identidades no son abstractas e inaccesibles para los investigadores, pero que son sumamente materiales y, por ende, arqueológicamente recuperables. Se sostiene que la investigación arqueológica puede, por lo tanto, servirse de los restos materiales para comprender la forma en que los individuos pueden haber ejecutado determinadas identidades para lograr metas específicas. Para elaborar estos reclamos, el papel de la ejecución ritual en la Mesoamérica antigua es emprendida con relación a su rol de formar identidades desplegadas con el fin de alcanzar el poder social y político. Un estudio del período clásico último a terminal (650–960 d.C.) sito en Las Canoas, Honduras, provee el trasfondo para estos debates. Los restos materiales recuperados del monumental Grupo Plaza Principal en Las Canoas iluminan las ejecuciones contextualizadas de las identidades distintivas, identidades que eran dependientes de reclamos de conocimiento especializado y el frágil poder social que puede haber surgido de dichos reclamos. En particular, se trata la interacción de espacios construidos, los movimientos de ejecutantes, y el uso de quemadores de incienso y figuras de cerámica. Se sostiene que los comportamientos que provienen de esta interacción han ayudado a ciertos miembros de la comunidad en sus esfuerzos para aprovechar las alianzas políticas y económicas cambiantes en la región al hacer un esfuerzo para conseguir el poder. Finalmente, sin embargo, sus reclamos para un liderazgo espiritual y político no perduraron; a la larga, miembros de la comunidad de Las Canoas parecen haber preferido expresiones de solidaridad social y observancias familiares en vez de la ostentación de ejecuciones rituales motivadas por la política y la pompa de las distinciones de estatus.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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