The Spanish colonization of the Americas had profound impacts on indigenous societies, but archaeological research has documented both change and continuity in economic, social, and political structures during the 16th and 17th centuries, implying a diversity of interactions and responses. This project uses zooarchaeology, the study of archaeological animal remains, to evaluate the impact of Spanish colonialism on households. Building on previous site-level investigations, this study considers continuities and transformations in the access to animal resources by specific community members as they adapted to the new Colonial order. Zooarchaeology is well placed to study periods of culture contact because animals can serve not only as basic resources, but also as indicators of cultural identity, luxury items, and symbols of status and power display. Thus, their material remains in the archaeological record provide a proxy of the past economic, social, and political systems in which they were used. In this study, the application of innovative zooarchaeological techniques provides a refined view of animal use by householders of different social status and political authority through the period of Spanish contact. In turn, this offers insight into the role played by status and political standing in how people react and adapt to times of instability. The project also incorporates methodological advancements by (1) presenting a new method combining taphonomy (the study of post-depositional histories of archaeological remains), skeletal element refitting, and radiocarbon dating to resolve issues of poor stratigraphic and chronological resolution; and (2) using a multi-isotope approach to investigate animal trade and management practices from pre-Columbian to Colonial times. Through museum exhibits and academic and public talks this project will generate discussions on the retention and loss of indigenous political economy in marginal areas. This research project will also train undergraduate students in methods of identification and analysis of zooarchaeological remains through hands-on lab activities.
To document change or persistence in cultural practices in marginal communities under Spanish rule, zooarchaeological remains are studied in two steps. First, taphonomic, refitting, and radiocarbon data are used to refine the chronology of deposits from seven households. Second, differences in the access to and control over animal resources and related activities are identified by comparing taxonomic, skeletal, and isotopic data among contexts (elite vs. non-elite, ruler vs. ruled) and periods (pre-Columbian vs. Colonial). Together, these lines of evidence will allow one to determine (1) if the elite maintained their status and power by retaining access to valued animal resources; and (2) if non-elite community members developed new strategies of animal exploitation to adapt to the Colonial order. Overall, these analyses will document relations of production and distribution of animal resources in Spanish borderlands and assess the impact of Spanish colonialism on the pursuit of these activities.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.