Elements of Ancient Power and Agency

Melissa Baltus, Sarah Otten, Timothy Pauketat

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Power in ancient eastern North America cannot be segregated a priori into political, social, and religious dimensions. Rather, it was a commonly dispersed attribute of human-nonhuman social fields that might be transferred, gathered, embodied, or emplaced. Thus, political power was realized, at least in part, through socio-religious practices involving ancestors, elements, and otherworldly forces. Deconstructing the dichotomy of religion and politics, we focus on practices of material manipulation, burning and burial at and around the 11th and 12th century complex of Cahokia along the Mississippi River. Specifically, we detail a number of contexts where temple buildings, human remains, and marker posts were transubstantiated, especially through burning, and hence their power transformed. Persons were constructed, places of power were built, political agents were defined, and enemies were eliminated through fire and earth.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2011


  • ISAS


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