Merging the social and the material: Life histories of ancient mementos from Central Mexico


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Journal of Social Archaeology

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This article proposes a way to bridge the chasm dividing archaeological studies of material properties and materials analyses from those of materiality, i.e. the mutually constitutive relationships between people and objects. This approach is demonstrated through the reconstruction of the life histories of curated figurines from Xaltocan, Mexico. Critical to this inquiry is an understanding of the material properties of the figurines — including form, style, and fragmentation — as well as materials analysis, specifically neutron activation analysis, which offers evidence of their places of origin. Using a life history approach provides insight into the production of Xaltocan as a place and its residents as people enchained or linked to ancient Teotihuacan, through the movement of these figurines through space and time. Furthermore, it demonstrates that these figurines, often ignored as accidents of site formation processes, were actually a crucial form of material culture through which residents constructed relationships with the past.

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