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Animate Objects: Shell Trumpets and Ritual Networks in the Greater Southwest

  • Barbara J. Mills
  • T. J. Ferguson
Article

Abstract

For over a millennium, shell trumpets have been an important part of Southwestern US ritual practice. We investigate the distribution of Southwestern shell trumpets, arguing that they are objects that are accorded animacy and can be used to track the history of different social networks. Using ethnohistoric and ethnographic documentation, at least two traditions of historically linked ritual practices are identified: one associated with serpent iconography and the other with curing, warfare, and sorcery. These two traditions represent enduring dispositions that link various regions of the Southwest through the introduction and adoption of ritual practices associated with migration and the transformation of late prehistoric societies.

Keywords

Animacy Ritual practice Materiality Southwest archaeology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Linda Brown and William Walker for organizing the SAA symposium where this work was first presented. Our thanks to the American Museum of Natural History for providing access to the collections from Pueblo Bonito, especially David Hurst Thomas, Lori Pendleton Thomas, and Anibal Rodriguez. We also thank the Smithsonian Institution for providing access to the Judd collections from Pueblo Bonito. We thank Arthur Vokes of the Arizona State Museum for generously sharing his knowledge of shell identification and distribution in the Southwest. Finally, we thank our reviewers for this journal, including Christine VanPool, who provided excellent comments that helped to improve our manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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