Animism, reciprocity and entanglement

Part of : Mediterranean archaeology & archaeometry : international journal ; Vol.16, No.4, 2016, pages 51-58

Sir Edward Tylor defined animism as the belief that features of the natural world, such as rock, trees, rivers, and mountains have souls or spirit. Within cultural anthropology animism was eventually abandoned as a useful analytic tool partly because of his condescending description of animistic societies as primitive and childish. As a consequence, the well of animism had been poisoned for several decades. However, ethnography has now shown that indigenous life may be organized around the existence of persons, many of whom are not human. This contemporary understanding of animism involves a belief that communication, cooperation, and reciprocal social obligations may be established between human and features of the material world, who may be animals, plants, rocks, flowing water, and mountains. Often such communication and reciprocity involves the hunter and prey, the fisherman and his catch, cutting the earth such as plowing, requesting water from melting snowfields, carving rocks and shaping the landscape. As a consequence, I consider interactions that involve the land and the rising or setting sun and moon in order to explore animism as a useful analytic tool in our attempts to understand the meaning of ancient skyscapes. I turn to a number of skyscapes test the usefulness of an animistic paradigm: Nabta Playa and its megalithic alignments to stars, India and Darshan, Andean huacas, and horizon events of the Ancestral Pueblos.
Subject (LC):
Darshan, Huacas, Nabta Playa, animism
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References (1):
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