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Material Relations

The Marriage Figurines of Prehispanic Honduras

By Julia A. Hendon, Rosemary A. Joyce and Jeanne Lopiparo

Publication Year: 2014

Focusing on marriage figurines—double human figurines that represent relations formed through social alliances—Hendon, Joyce, and Lopiparo examine the material relations created in Honduras between AD 500 and 1000, a period of time when a network of social houses linked settlements of a variety of sizes in the region. The authors analyze these small, seemingly insignificant artifacts using the theory of materiality to understand broader social processes.

They examine the production, use, and disposal of marriage figurines from six sites—Campo Dos, Cerro Palenque, Copán, Currusté, Tenampua, and Travesia—and explore their role in rituals and ceremonies, as well as in the forming of social bonds and the celebration of relationships among communities. They find evidence of historical traditions reproduced over generations through material media in social relations among individuals, families, and communities, as well as social differences within this network of connected yet independent settlements.

Material Relations provides a new and dynamic understanding of how social houses functioned via networks of production and reciprocal exchange of material objects and will be of interest to Mesoamerican archaeologists, anthropologists, and art historians.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xii


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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-10

This book has multiple goals. First, it demonstrates how an analysis drawing on contemporary theories of materiality can enhance our understanding of broad social processes from a dedicated, detailed study of small things. This is a point that is familiar from other archaeological studies in areas as far removed as the recent history of the United States (Beaudry 2006) and...

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1. Working with Clay

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pp. 11-22

Figurine production in Honduras goes back well into the period of early village life, with examples at Copán (Cummins 2006) and in the lower Ulúa Valley (Joyce 2003c, 2007b) dating before 1000 BC. These earliest figurines (figure 1.1) are hand modeled, each a unique work. They include both humans and animal figures, some hollow and constructed like ceramic vessels,

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2. Copán

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pp. 23-38

They buried the child at home, carrying out a complex ritual that began by placing two objects on the pavement near a stone-fronted platform. One of these objects was a miniature Ulúa Polychrome ceramic vessel in the shape of a shallow bowl. The second was a whistle, also made from clay, representing a couple, a woman and a...

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3. Tenampua

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pp. 39-56

In 1957 pioneering Honduran archaeologist Doris Z. Stone published a photograph of a figurine very similar to the one from Copán (Stone 1957, figure 56D). Stone described it as “a mold-made figurine of a man and a woman [that] came from Tenampua” (Stone 1957, 53)...

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4. Campo Dos

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pp. 57-76

Nestled on a shelf in the Cultural Resource Center of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Suitland, Maryland, is a mold-made figurine depicting side-by-side standing male and female figures (figure 4.1a). While the general subject is the same as that of marriage figurines from Copán and...

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5. Currusté

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pp. 77-98

Unlike Tenampua or Copán, Campo Dos was a village, part of a landscape of evenly spaced hamlets along the rivers in the Ulúa Valley. Each of these clusters of houses was an in-gathering place on special occasions— we suggest in particular events in the lives of family members—that neighbors and kin would have...

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6. Travesía

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pp. 99-136

When we began this project, we identified sites to discuss strictly on the basis of the presence of marriage figurines: a single object depicting a human pair. In addition to the detailed examples we have discussed in the previous chapters from Copán, Tenampua, Campo Dos, and Currusté, our initial sample included a schematic...

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7. Cerro Palenque

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pp. 137-158

The site of Cerro Palenque sits above the confluence of the Río Ulúa, Río Chamelecón, and Río Blanco on one of the hills at the southern end of the lower Ulúa Valley. Dorothy Hughes Popenoe visited Cerro Palenque some time before her death in 1932 and Doris Z. Stone was there in 1936 (Stone 1941, 57–58). Materials from the...

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pp. 159-170

Many accounts of the fundamental binding relations in ancient societies take the perspective of government, of political relations, especially political strategies that are recognizable to people living in contemporary nation-states defined by a claimed territory, favored language, and purported historical identity (Anderson 1991). The questions asked concern how...


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pp. 171-194


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pp. 195-200

E-ISBN-13: 9781607322788
E-ISBN-10: 1607322781
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607322771
Print-ISBN-10: 1607322773

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 109
Publication Year: 2014