Household ritual, gender, and figurines in the Hohokam regional system

TitleHousehold ritual, gender, and figurines in the Hohokam regional system
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsStinson, S
Academic DepartmentAnthropology
UniversityUniversity of Arizona
KeywordsArizona, Figurines, Gender, Hohokam, Household ritual

Study of ritual in the Greater Southwest is dominated by research at the suprahousehold and community levels. However, this approach ignores the most basic segment of society, the household. This research addresses household ritual by determining the production, use, and discard of anthropomorphic ceramic figurines that were used at the sites of Snaketown and Grewe during the Pioneer (300 B.C.-A.D. 700) and Colonial (A.D. 700-900) periods. Agency and practice theory provide a background for this examination of human representations that may be tied with the creation of personhood and identity.

Some 1440 figurines and figurine fragments are analyzed in order to determine their function and the sex of those individuals producing them. Function is determined by recording the patterns of construction, form, use-wear, damage, and disposal for each artifact. These results are compared to cross-cultural patterns of figurine use including ancestor ritual, healing and curing ritual, and the play of children (toys.) All aspects of figurine manufacture, use, and discard indicate that these items were employed in ancestor ritual within Hohokam households.

In addition to the analysis of figurine attributes, I also determine who the producers of these figures were by examining fingerprint impressions left in the clay surface of the representations. Dermatoglyphic analyses provide the link between the manufacture of figurines and gender roles within the household. Ridge counting is used to distinguish between children and adults and males and females. A ridge count is a quantitative measure of the size and density of the fingerprint pattern, which is strongly inherited. The ridge count indices for the archaeological sample are compared with ridge count values from an ethnographic collection of Native American prints. These distributions of ridge count values show that women are the primary producers of the figurines, however a small percentage of men are manufacturing them in certain households.

As part of ancestor ritual, figurines function as representations of deceased relatives who perpetuate access to property and resource rights. Women often maintain this ritual, which commemorates the dead while reinforcing social memory among the Hohokam.