Americas (11/28/2011)

by sylladex


Formal Analysis Paper:
Posted online under the files section. Due the 18th, via email, by midnight. 2-3 pages, double spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt.
Questions to help with your paper are contained within the description file.
Interpretation is important – this is what makes it a formal analysis rather than just a description, delving that one step further.

3rd Exam – 12th – 2 weeks of material to cover, so much shorter than other exams.
Will get previous exams back by Wednesday.


The Anasazi were early Pueblo people named by the Navajo – the name means “Enemy Ancestors,” so naturally, the Hopi people don’t like that term. The prefer the term Ancestral Pueblo People, however you still see the term Anasazi used in scholarship today. The Navajo aren’t pueblo people – they migrated from Canada and are ancestors of the Alabascan people.

Terms used to describe “Native American” people vary and are all problematic in their own ways. Different people prefer different things for different reasons. Canada uses the term “First Nations,” or “Aboriginals” and some Native Americans prefer to be called “First Nations” people. Others prefer Native American. Others don’t mind Indian, although that’s not considered PC anymore. As we all know, the term Indian came from the fact that Columbus thought he had landed in India.

The Anasazi were located in Chaco Canyon (New Mexico) and Mesa Verde (in Southern Colorado, near Durango). They were great and extensive traders and probably had contact with the native Americans from Mexico (Toltec, Mayan).  Ball courts have been found in Arizona, so obviously there was some kind of culture contact.

He showed a slide of Chaco Canyon and said that each red dot was a different “site”.

A lot of “Great Houses” were found in Chaco Canyon, probably religious sites. One of these Great Houses is Pueblo Bonito.

Pueblo Bonito (I didn’t get the dates for this)

If you want more visuals, including a really nice diagram, you can go here and check out this site.
I also came across this, which is an interactive map of Pueblo Bonito. You click on the rooms and there is a listing of the artifacts found inside, I guess. I’m still trying to understand it entirely, but there are images of the rooms on the clickable ones. It’s pretty cool.

It is likely there were “other people” here as well. (I’m not sure what he meant by that. Maybe non Anasazi people?)

Pueblo Bonito is a Great House, most likely used as a ceremonial or ritual site.

The circles surrounding it are called Kiva – these are common in Anasazi structures and you might even find them on some of the homes. On a Kiva, you always see something on the bottom in the center referencing an opening – this is where the Anasazi believe the first people came from. It is referred to as the “Sipapu”, or the “Hole of Emergence”

The Anasazi believed in an underworld (like the Mayans).

Archeologists believe that they built here for about 200 years – the idea that you have this sacred area and you keep building and building. They probably connected the area with one of their mythological stories.

Pueblo Bonito consisted of about 650 rooms and 40 Kivas.

It was a ceremonial center, so all of those sites on the map, you had some great houses that people would come to. Essentially, people didn’t live at Pueblo Bonito, they would make pilgrimages there, coming there for certain rituals and maybe burials. Burials have been found at Pueblo Bonito and were most likely elites, upper class citizens and priests. It is possible that the elite could have lived here, and it’s likely that the priests did live here.
There is debate that the Anasazi may have practiced sacrifice or cannibalism and that that could have been one of the reasons for their downfall, so it’s possible that ritual cannibalism may have been practiced here.

_SLIDE_ : A recreation of a scene at Pueblo Bonito

Notice the smoke coming out of the Kivas.

Here you would have a lot of performances. Dances. The dancers would come out of the Kivas – the would come out of the Hole of Emergence and they would take on the role of spirits coming out to dance for the people. When the dances were over, the dancers would leave, the spirits would leave. The Kivas are still sacred spaces today and the Hopi still practice these dances – tourists are not allowed into them – the idea that these are not only entertainment, but that they are religious – sacred things are going on.

Kivas are tall structures, probably 4-5 stories.

Frog (room 38) Pueblo Bonito – 850-1150

( I don’t remember the frog he showed us in class looking like this. Unfortunately, this is the only Room 38 frog I seem to be able to find on the internet. :/ )

In Room 38, they found a burial – Six young men on top of a plank floor. Beneath those men, they found two other men buried. Goods were found buried with the two men buried below the six men – beads, this frog pendant, animals (specifically, the skeleton of a macaw – proving that there was trade since the macaw is from Mexico, South & Central America).

To the Anasazi, like the Mayan, birds were very sacred, this is why the bird is significant and why it would have been buried with the men.

Of course these things were buried with the men to show wealth but also to help them with their journey through the afterlife. They Ansazi, like the Mayans, believed in an underworld, middle world and upperworld.

With this frog, you can see the religious beliefs of these people were shamanistic. Frogs were important to shamanistic religions because, like birds, they could occupy two regions (water and earth) and because they evolve (transformation) – we see them grow from tadpoles into frogs.

These men could have been priests and this necklace could have been something worn while a shaman was going through a transformation, to help him with the process (sympathetic magic).

Cliff Palace 100-1299
(image from wikipedia)

The Anasazi deserted Chaco Canyon in about the 12th century – there are many theories as to why. (drought, warfare (constantly fighting, leading to the depletion of resources), ritual cannibalism leading to social upheaval.)
Social Upheaval happens when you have only an upper & lower class – the people in the lower class begin questioning why such a small percentage has all of the money. People get fed up and start to rise up against the government/king/established religion. Religion provides social order, social control. Why did Constantine legalize Christianity – not because he was Christian, but to keep the Roman Empire together. So in times of social upheaval, the people are going to rise up against the religion and those in power.

So here, they’ve moved.

Look at these cliffs – they would have been very protected within this dwelling – it’s elevated and with it set within the cliff, they’re protected from enemies and invaders. Also, the way the cliff faces, it protects from the sun and the heat in summer months, keeping the homes and people cooler, while in winter months, it’s facing the sun and would be warmer. This indcates that they knew the movement of the sun.

We also have Kivas at Cliff Palace, but they are much smaller because less space is available here.


It shows a man leaving the Kiva, he has a ladder, he’s coming out. You have a site of the dancers coming in. The Kivas were where the men would go for men’s ceremonies, but the women also had their ceremonies there. Women have more power in this society. The Anasazi were most likely a matrilinial culture like most Native American cultures – this means the people trace their heritage through their mother’s side. This gives women a lot of power. They could own property. If a Navajo man and woman get divorced, the man leaves and moves back in with his mom and the woman keeps everything. It may have been similar with the Anasazi.


A Kiva from Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde. Note that Mesa Verde is North of Chaco Canyon (they moved north). This kiva doesn’t have an actual hole for the Sipappu but there is still something that references the hole of emergence.

This is the Southwest, now we’re moving on to the East.

Adena, Grave Creek Mound, 500 bce, 50-ce
62 ft high, 240 ft diameter.
(further information available on wikipedia)

The Adena people occupied the areas of Ohio, Indiana, W. Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania. They were once thought to be farmers who lived under the rule of a chief in these permanent senttlements, but new discoveries have led archeologists to believe that they didn’t really live in a stratified society. We now believe that although they were farmers, they were also hunter-gatherers and were a nomadic people who would move around according to the seasons, occupying specific regions during specific times of the year. Therefore, they likely occupied the area of this mound, and others, only during a specific time, not year-round like was once believed. It is not believed that they lived in organized villages.

We don’t know what the Adena called themselves because, unlike the Mayans and Aztecs in Mezo-America, they don’t have any written language. The name “Adena” comes from an estate where one of these mounds was found. They are now referred to as the Early Woodlands People, but for this class, we will refer to them as the Adena. They, like other Native American cultures of the east, are known as the Mound Builders because we found so many mounds constructed by these people.

It is believed that most, if not all of the mounds were graves – this one is. At first, when this was excavated, 21 bodies were found. On a second excavation, 13 more were found. It is likely that the people buried inside were important. Although this is an Egalitarian society, they still probably had leaders, although they wouldn’t have been powerful like kings and there wouldn’t have been seperated classes.  At first it was believed that only men were buried here, but there are actually an equal number of females – showing equality between the genders in the society, in sharp contrast to what we’ve seen before in other societies.

It’s likely that when people came to the sacred site, they would leave people offerings and that ancestral veneration happened here. So here you would have this sacred site and you would return to the sacred site.

The Process of Creating the Mound:

First they would clear the ground. Since this is a sacred area, there is probably some religious significance associated with this step. After clearing the ground, an enclosure is constructed, made of wooden posts. Bark is placed over these posts as a roof. Soil is then placed on top of the bark until a mound is formed. Then, when a second burial happens, a new layers is created on top of the previous layer, using the same method of wood posts, bark, and dirt. Since they returned seasonally, the building of this mound was done over many years.

They have stopped excavating mounds. Laws were passed in the 1950s to stop it because these are burial sites. Native Americans began saying they didn’t want people messing with their ancestral burials. Now, with new technology, actual excavation isn’t needed as much – it can be done without having to really go in there. This is especially true with these mounds or smaller structures, as opposed to, say, the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan.


Two men standing in front of the mound to show the perspective size of the mound.

Adena, Pipe, 500 bce – 50ce

8 inches, stone, found in a grave.

Humanoid figure, reminiscent of Meso-American art. Notice the openings for ear spools. This shows that there was possibly some contact with Meso-Americans through trade. This is reminiscent of the Standing Figures from Teotihuacan – the arms are at the side, legs bent, mouth open. The mouth could have been open as a stylistic trait, or it could be showing the figure as alert and ready for something to take place, or being ready for receiving. It could also be representative of taking the tobacco in and blowing it out.

Naturalism is present in the chest, arms and facial characteristics, but it is heavily stylized.

A lot of pipes have been found in this area. Tobacco was most likely sacred to these people as it is today to people in this area (Cherokee, etc.) (Use of Archeology to discover what people might have thought). So these were probably ceremonial. Native Americans believe that tobacco was given to them by the creator – when they smoke the tobacco and blow the smoke up into the air, this is seen to be an offering to the creator. This is a very sacred substance. It was also believed that the smoke could be an offering to ancestors and other spirits. Even today, the Navajo believe it to be “one of the 4 sacred plants,” so even in the southwest it is very important. When used, certain kinds of tobacco can cause hallucinations, so these would probably be used by shamans for trances and things like that. It was used in this religious context and was a common practice all over the Americas before Christianity came and wiped that out. It’s also possible that hallucinogenics were another reason for the focus on frogs in Shamanistic religions.

To use the pipe, tobacco was placed at the bottom of the sculpture, and the opening in the head is where you would intake the tobacco.

Now we move on to the Hopewell (200 BCE – 400 CE)
It’s important to know that the Hopewell also built mounds, but because of time restraints, we aren’t going to focus on that.

Note: This is not the eagle pipe he showed in class, but I can’t find that one. This at least gives an idea of what it looked like, even if this bird is far more detailed and not in the same position. I really wish he would give us the slides for study sooner. :(
Eagle Pipe, Hopewell, 200 bce – 200 ce
Stone, 2 inches x 3 inches

Like the Adena people, the Hopewell also had pipes and used tobacco in religious ceremonies.

This pipe is representative of an eagle – a sacred, shamanistic bird. Again, we have the bird. We talked about birds in Meso-America and you see a lot of representations of eagles in Aztec art. The eagle is a powerful hunter and a very large bird – very easy to spot. In fact, Aztecs had an “eagle class” of warriors.

To use the pipe, you put the tobacco in the bird’s back, then smoke it from the front (like a decorative stone kazoo that doesn’t make any noise).
Again, when you blow out the smoke, there is an offering to the ancestors, spirits, creator god, etc.

The head position of the bird could be an observation of animals in nature and what they do. This is what Native Americans did. This is what the Mayans did. They focused on the animals, observed them, and put them into their religion accordingly. It is interesting to go from humanistic religions like the Greeks and go back to this reverence for nature and focus on animals. Native American religion believes in a connection to everything – to your brother, the trees, the animals, your neighbor – so you have to be careful what you do, because every action affects everything else. Although these animals were revered, it was important to note that they still hunted and ate them.

Hopewell, Falcon Effigy
Copper. 8 inches x 12 inches.

Here we have a representation of a falcon that was found in a burial mound and is believed to have been part of a headdress.
When you look at this falcon, it looks like it’s going to take off in flight – you see the animal in the midst of flight, it looks very powerful. You see how they revere nature and animals.

This was a flat piece – not in the round.

Most likely, the Hopewell had an Egalitarian society, but probably had a bit more stratification than the Adena.

Hopewell, Hand Effigy, 200 BCE – 400 CE
Mica, 11 inches x 6 inches
From a burial mound.

You see all of these animals and then a hand. Why a hand? It could be that they were workers, farmers, worked with their hands. There were hands in cliff paintings. It is believed that hands were given special attention in funerary/mortuary ceremonies, so it’s likely that they thought there was something spiritual about the hand.

Hopewell, Figure. 200 BCE – 400 CE
Stone, 6 inches.

Although he just called it “figure” in class, I was able to find it on google search by adding “Bear shaman” to the end of my search. Turns out this figure has a name. It’s called the The Hopewell Shaman of Newark or the Wray figurine. For more information, check out this website. Their dates contradict the dates given in class, so be careful about using any information found on this page on exams.

Found in a burial mound.

Reminiscent of the art from the Northwest (Alaska)

This is most likely a depiction of a shaman during transformation. He is wearing this bear pelt and it looks like he is about to pull the head down and completely transform. This totem was probably kept by a shaman to help during a transformation (sympathetic magic).

On his lap you have a head – this could be someone who has been decapitated (a victim) or it could be an ancestor (someone he is looking to communicate with when he transforms.

It’s important to note that although he’s transforming into a bear, he’s transforming into a *spirit*. This idea of animal transformation in their religion may have gone a bit further – suggesting that it was believed that ancestors *actually* transformed in their beliefs (like werewolves).

Hopewell – great serpent mound – late 11th century
Gardner’s (the textbook) credits this to the Missipian people, but the instructor says this is incorrect.
1200 ft long, 20 ft wide, 5 ft high, located in ohio.

At first, scholars believed that the Adena had done this, but then they realized that it was a later people who had come and done this. Some archeologists now believe that descendants of the Hopewell, rather than the Hopewell themselves made this.

Originally, the path around it was likely a dirt path – it is now concrete, for tourists.

Because this is a large mound and a large image, it’s obviously something important. It was someplace people came to. It is believed this is where mortuary ceremonies took place, however no actual burials have been found here as of yet.

Most likely, the serpent played an important part in their religion. Snakes are important to religions because they symbolize regeneration when they shed their skin. When something regenerates, new creation also takes place. Note that there is an egg shape in front of the serpent and the mouth of the serpent is open.

A portion of the mound was excavated in the 1880s.

Archeologists apply what is called a “Vacant Center Pattern” to the Great Serpent Mound. This archeological theory says that people didn’t live in this area – it wasn’t a residence. Like the Great Houses of the Anasazi, people made pilgrammages here. It is believed that this, and all of the Hopewell “earthworks” are a symbolic ceremonial center.

The Hopewell would have watched the night skies. It is interesting to note that the date of construction of this serpent was four years after the passing of Halies Comet. It is believed that this could be a reference to the passing of that, as they would have thought that that was something spiritual.