Scholars have recently achieved new insights into the many ways in which the dead and the living interacted from the Late Preclassic to the Conquest in Mesoamerica. The eight essays in this useful volume were written by well-known scholars who offer cross-disciplinary and synergistic insights into the varied articulations between the dead and those who survived them. From physically opening the tomb of their ancestors and carrying out ancestral heirlooms to periodic feasts, sacrifices, and other lavish ceremonies, heirs revisited death on a regular basis. The activities attributable to the dead, moreover, range from passively defining territorial boundaries to more active exploits, such as dancing at weddings and witnessing royal accessions. The dead were and continued to be a vital part of everyday life in Mesoamerican cultures. This book results from a symposium organized by the editors for an annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The contributors employ historical sources, comparative art history, anthropology, and sociology, as well as archaeology and anthropology, to uncover surprising commonalities across cultures, including the manner in which the dead were politicized, the perceptions of reciprocity between the dead and the living, and the ways that the dead were used by the living to create, define, and renew social as well as family ties. In exploring larger issues of a good death and the transition from death to ancestry, the contributors demonstrate that across Mesoamerica death was almost never accompanied by the extinction of a persona; it was more often the beginning of a social process than a conclusion."
James L. Fitzsimmons is an assistant professor of anthropology at Middlebury College. He is the author of Death and the Classic Maya Kings. Izumi Shimada is a professor and Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University. He has published numerous journal articles and book chapters and has authored or edited several books, including Craft Production in Complex Societies.
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