This excellent volume arose out of the 2001 Dumbarton Oaks symposium, “A Pre-Columbian World.” The proposal of the symposium, in response to the recent trend of hyperdifferentiating cultures and emphasizing geographic and cultural boundaries, was to examine commonalities of the pre-Columbian world. The subsequent well-crafted, 11-chapter volume examines “the Americas” through the research of scholars working in North, Central, and South America. A number of themes emerge, including a call to Americanist archaeologists to remember that the geographic and political boundaries that we have placed on the ancient world are not real and that we should once again consider the broader interactions that may have occurred. Several chapters convincingly examine these overlapping themes of pre-Columbian cultures, including the following: Polly Schaafsma and Karl Taube's masterful overview of rain ceremonialism and symbolism in the Mesoamerican and Puebloan worlds; Warren R. De Boer's argument for comparisons with creation stories of the Hopewell and the Olmec; Mary W. Helms's evaluation of the use of serpent imagery, world trees, mirrors, and cacao among the Coclé of Panama with Mesoamerica and South American peoples; and Anna Blume's consideration of animal hybrids among the Maya and European cultures.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Mathews, J. (2008). [Review of the book A pre-Columbian world, by J. Quilter & M. Miller (Eds.)]. American Anthropologist, 110, 138. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2008.00018_64.x