Linda Cordell, David Freidel, Kelley Hays-Gilpin, Timothy Pauketat, Christine VanPool

Paper #: 11-02-006

Central to ancient Amerindian cosmologies were the venerations of, mediations by, and rituals performed for ancestors. This short paper reviews some of the fundamental relationships between the peoples of Eastern North America, the greater Southwest, and Mesoamerica and their ancestors, with focus on the past as known through archaeological remains. Examples from each of the three sub-continental areas are highlighted and generalities are identified. There is evidence of practices whereby ancestral spirits were translocated and embodied by material things, physical spaces, and other substances or elements (earth, clouds, water). Likewise, there is evidence that ancestors were subject to selective remembering and forgetting, a process especially important to political and religious institutions. Finally, ancestors provided tangible connections to higher-order supernatural beings or powers.