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Context, Cult, and Early Formative Period Public Ritual in the Mixteca Alta: Analysis of a hollow-baby figurine from Etlatongo, Oaxaca

  • Jeffrey P. Blomster (a1)
Abstract

From the Early and Middle Formative periods, hollow ceramic-baby figurines in the Olmec style—representing a suite of shared symbols and iconography—appear at sites throughout Mesoamerica. Hollow babies are usually reported without provenience, which has prevented a context-based analysis. The recent discovery of a hollow-baby figurine in a bell-shaped pit in the Mixteca Alta of Oaxaca provides the opportunity to examine the role and purported distribution of these objects across Mesoamenca. Based on consideration of the Etlatongo hollow-baby image, a semiotic analysis of contemporaneous solid figurines from Oaxaca, and the volume and nature of its bell-shaped-pit context, hollow babies are interpreted as ritual paraphernalia used in display and public ceremonies that reflect the emerging social ranking of this period. Moving beyond a socioeconomic interpretation, the interregional relationships expressed through hollow-baby figurines are suggested to evince participation in a regional cult.

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Ancient Mesoamerica
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