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EARLY FORMATIVE PERIOD BIRD USE AT PASO DE LA AMADA, MEXICO

  • Katelyn J. Bishop (a1), Thomas A. Wake (a2) and Michael Blake (a3)
Abstract

Avifaunal remains from archaeological sites have a largely unrecognized explanatory potential. Archaeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic records have shown that, especially in Mesoamerica, birds and their products have served a wide range of utilitarian, decorative, and symbolic purposes. Despite their ability to inform research on many aspects of prehistoric life, avifaunal remains from archaeological contexts remain under-studied. This paper demonstrates how a holistic approach to their analysis—one that explores several types of human-bird interaction—can move beyond studies of subsistence. A previously reported and newly updated avifaunal collection was reanalyzed to shed light on the relationship between the many uses of birds and the establishment of hereditary inequality at Paso de la Amada, an Early Formative period ceremonial center on the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico. Results indicate that Early Formative people used birds as a source of food, feathers, and bone, and that the ritual use of birds was an important component of status display. Even at this early date, birds were symbolically valuable and played a role in ritual performance, suggesting that their later significance in Mesoamerican ritual, religion, and iconography has an antecedent beginning no later than 1700 BC.

Los restos avifaunísticos provenientes de sitios arqueológicos tienen un gran potencial explicativo que en gran medida continua sin ser reconocido. La evidencia arqueológica, etnohistórica e iconográfica ha demostrado que, especialmente en Mesoamérica, las aves y sus productos secundarios fueron empleados para una amplia gama de propósitos, desde lo utilitario a lo decorativo, e inclusive lo simbólico. A pesar de que los restos de aves informan sobre vastos aspectos de la vida prehispánica, permanecen sin estudiarse a fondo. Este artículo muestra cómo el análisis de restos avifaunísticos, empleando un enfoque holístico que explora diversas formas de interacción entre las aves y los seres humanos, puede propiciar un alcance que va más allá de los estudios de subsistencia. Se reanalizó una colección avifaunística, previamente estudiada y recientemente actualizada, con el propósito de esclarecer la relación entre los diferentes usos de las aves y el establecimiento de la desigualdad hereditaria en Paso de la Amada, un centro ceremonial del periodo Formativo temprano ubicado en la costa del Pacífico de Chiapas, México. Los resultados obtenidos indican que los habitantes del Formativo temprano empleaban las aves como fuente de alimento, y además usaban su plumaje y hueso. Asimismo, el uso ritual de las aves era una práctica importante para exhibir prestigio. Así, se observa que ya desde este periodo las aves poseían un valor simbólico y desempeñaban un papel importante dentro del ámbito ritual. Esto sugiere que su importancia en contextos rituales, religiosos e iconográficos, que se manifiesta en periodos posteriores en Mesoamérica, se remonta por lo menos al año 1700 aC.

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