Symbolic bones and Interethnic Violence in a Frontier Zone, Northwest Mexico ca 500-900 CE.

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Persistent interethnic violence has affected some global regions for centuries. Recent research reveals that major outbreaks are often prevented or limited by creative social action. In the prehispanic Northern Frontier of Mesoamerica, approximately 500–900 C.E., people of different ethnic backgrounds struggled for standing in a shifting sociopolitical landscape. Evidence is consistent with long-term social violence, but also with the use of the dead to communicate a range of symbolic messages. Complex arrays of human skeletal material commemorated past physical conflicts, possibly discouraging their repetition, while also connecting the living symbolically with a metaphysical realm inhabited by ancestors and deities. This article highlights the postmortem agency of the dead and illustrates their roles in structuring social relations.


interethnic conflict; social violence; human bone taphonomy; archaeology; Mesoamerica

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