HOHOKAM ROCK ART, RITUAL PRACTICE, AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE PHOENIX BASIN
Wright, Aaron Michael
MetadataShow full item record
Rock art, once an often-neglected subject, is increasingly considered a meaningful social practice among past and present communities. This thesis adds to a growing body of research that regards rock art as more than art or ideation, but as a means for establishing one's identity in relation to their physical and social worlds. To demonstrate this, I focus on a corpus of Hohokam petroglyphs in the South Mountains, near the center of the Phoenix Basin in south-central Arizona. I make the case that these petroglyphs were instrumental in ritual practices that displayed and conveyed religious knowledge between performers and audiences. Rock art therefore positioned people in relationships of power with other people, as well as other-than-human agents, regarding the control and distribution of religious knowledge. I rely on contextual factors throughout this thesis to investigate the nuances of petroglyph-related ritualism. Hohokam rock art was created and used on at least seven types of stage, each varying in ritual depth and entailing different performers and audiences. This shows that rock art, although uncommon, cross-cut social identities, and the religious knowledge involved was not institutionalized within a select few social positions, such as shamans or similar politico-religious offices. Hohokam rock art is relatively visible and accessible; this "openness" paralleled the fluidity of religious knowledge within the larger Hohokam world and complements what we know from village settings. My chronological assessment nevertheless shows that this was not always the case. I use four relative-dating techniques--proximity analysis, cross-media design correlation, repatination, and artifact associations--to argue petroglyph-related ritualism in the South Mountains was performed mostly during the Preclassic era (~A.D. 500-1100). A cessation in rock art by the onset of the Classic period (~A.D. 1100-1400) resulted from an usurpation of religious knowledge by emerging leaders in the wake of a fracturing ritual system. This social transformation met little resistance, in part because the new religious order maintained qualities of the previous ritual system, yet emerging leaders reconfigured it in ways to justify and substantiate their new authority.