Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

February Membership Meeting

Animals and Sacred Mountains: Ritualized Performance and Teotihuacan's State Ideology by Nawa Sugiyama PhD

This meeting will be held at The Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.  

Humans have always been fascinated by wild carnivores. This has led to a unique interaction with these beasts, one in which these key figures played an important role as main icons in state imperialism and domination. At the Classic period site of Teotihuacan, Mexico (AD 1–550), this was no exception as nearly 200 beasts were sacrificed and deposited as associated offerings in large-scale dedicatory rituals at the Pyramid of the Moon. This talk will construct a narrative—bringing individual animal biographies to life through meticulous zooarchaeological and isotopic data—of how wild carnivores directly converted a large pyramidal mound into a sacred mountain. The talk will ask (1) How were the social identities of these animals constructed as symbols of the Teotihuacan state? and (2) How did they directly contribute to the reification of a hierarchical social landscape? Certainly, the selection of the most prominent carnivores (jaguars, pumas, wolves, eagles, and rattlesnakes) was not accidental. Paradigms between nature/culture and wild/domestic are considered, as pathological indicators suggest that many of the animals sacrificed in the offering had been tamed and kept in captivity.

Nawa Sugiyama is currently a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Museum of Natural History examining zooarchaeological and isotopic remains from the Maya site of Copán, Honduras. She received her PhD from Harvard University. Her dissertation, on the faunal remains from Teotihuacan, Mexico, was funded by various fellowships and grants including the William R. Tyler Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, the National Science Foundation Doctorate Dissertation Improvement Grant, and the Fulbright Hays Dissertation Research Abroad Program. 

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