Food for Body and Soul: Mortuary Ritual in Shell Mounds (Laguna - Brazil)
AdvisorFish, Suzanne K
Committee ChairFish, Suzanne K
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractLarge, conical mounds known as sambaquis form the contours of prehistoric settlement, resource procurement, and ritual along the southern coast of Brazil. This research examines faunal remains from Jabuticabeira II, a large shell mound exclusively used as a cemetery for approximately 1000 years (between 2500 - 1400 BP). Its complex stratigraphy alternates between dark burial deposits and light, thick layers of shells. Various groups used neighboring burial areas simultaneously, and faunal analysis of these burial deposits suggests that animals, especially fish, played an integral role in feasts performed to honor the dead.Detailed investigation of feast remains from 12 funerary areas indicates recurrent use of the same resources during the events, especially catfish and whitemouth croaker. Mammals and birds were also part of the ritual and were deposited in association with burial pits, especially during the final episode of construction. The remains of feasts were then used to fill the funerary areas and demarcate the domain of the dead. Recurrent depositional episodes of massive amounts of shell valves eventually formed a large mound, and the building materials were carefully selected to emphasize the opposition between interment areas and covering layers.The results primarily indicate strong continuity in the feasts. A dramatic shift in the materials used to build the mound during the final period of its construction does not coincide with a change in the faunal assemblage. Examination of Brazilian ethnography sheds light on several aspects of mortuary ritual and explains the association of features discovered at the site. Feasts incorporated resources accessible to all group members, and reinforced the connection of groups with estuarine landscape. The identification of bounded deposits that can be assigned to specific affinity groups allows studies of the nature of social relationships. This permitted the development of a sampling strategy that targeted social units, a breakthrough approach. The unique access to affinity groups can answer questions about the behavior of these social units and the association of their members.