Abstract

Prehispanic northeastern Honduran communities were situated at the border between southeastern Mesoamerica and lower Central America. Previous studies of pottery style suggest that local groups shifted their affiliation from north to south at the end of the Classic period (ca. AD 1000). This study examines the contexts in which pottery, as a medium for style, was used, and how the food people prepared, stored, or served in these vessels offers a perspective complementary to pottery style for understanding how identity was actively negotiated in this region. In this view, other parts of the foodways system – the foods chosen to be processed or cooked in pottery, the particular methods of preparation or serving – can also have their own form of style that has the potential to be as important in materializing identities as the designs on pottery vessels.

Excavation at the Selin Farm site documented shell midden mounds containing large deposits of shell, pottery, and other materials disposed of as part of feasting events that took place throughout the Selin Period (AD 300-1000). These stratified deposits are the result of repeated consumption and disposal practices that represent groups of people that came together to form a community of consumption in the past. Data from excavation, lithic and faunal analyses, and typological, morphological, and residue analyses of pottery point to variation in the form, content, and motivations behind these events over space and time. By tracing the nature and scale of these feasting events over time and space at Selin Farm, this study provides data critical to situating the processes behind identity negotiation at the local level and tying the micropolitics of individual events to broader social and political changes in the region.

The timing of changes in local pottery styles and foodways suggests they occurred partly as a result of interaction with groups to the north and south that both spoke to cultural understandings and similarities while also highlighting differences and reinforcing boundaries. However, variation in feasting practices across contexts at Selin Farm demonstrates, for the first time, internal heterogeneity within a northeastern community that helps explain processes of change without relying exclusively on external forces, while also not denying their influence in shaping local change.

The study of identity negotiation at Selin Farm demonstrates that aggrandizers, expansionist chiefdoms, or outside influences were not responsible for cultural change in the small-scale societies of Central America. The people who lived and feasted at the site were not passive recipients of innovations from the north or the south. There were complex internal social and political strategies being employed by individuals and groups that led to the structural changes that took place in the region. Through interaction with each other and with outside groups they were continually guiding the formation, maintenance, and transformation of group identity through the manipulation of shared practices and everyday activities, punctuated by the feasting events described here.

Degree Date

Summer 2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Anthropology

Advisor

Brigitte Kovacevich

Second Advisor

Kacy L. Hollenback

Third Advisor

Christopher I. Roos

Fourth Advisor

E. Christian Wells

Subject Area

Anthropology

Number of Pages

414

Format

.pdf

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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