Rethinking Refuse: A History of Maya Trash

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Overview

Title
Rethinking Refuse: A History of Maya Trash
Contributors
Newman, Sarah E (creator)
Houston, Stephen (Director)
Cherry, John (Reader)
Scherer, Andrew (Reader)
Hutson, Scott (Reader)
Halperin, Christina (Reader)
Brown University. Anthropology (sponsor)
Doi
10.7301/Z0CZ35KZ
Copyright Date
2015
Abstract
This dissertation focuses on the bits and broken pieces that were used, reused, discarded, and buried in the past. Although fragmented artifacts are often reconstructed and interpreted based on the complete objects they once constituted, here their role as rubbish is the focal point. Through an approach that incorporates archaeology, ethnohistory, and anthropology, I explore how the dirty, the obsolete, and the broken were conceived of in Mesoamerica during pre-Columbian times, the colonial period, and more recent eras, as well as how and why those perceptions were restructured and changed by the colonial encounter with Europeans. Two major goals motivate and shape this work. The first is to question the application of modern, categorical modes of understanding to ancient societies. Notions of waste as merely obsolete items to be disposed of as efficiently as possible are deeply rooted in the context of industrialism. Evaluating what trash was and meant in ancient Mesoamerica, as well as how those perceptions responded to change, opens up new possibilities for understanding the role of deposition and disposal in constructing systems of value and meaning, creating social and ethical persons, and intentionally arranging and defining places. Archaeological data are derived from excavations at the site of El Zotz in northern Guatemala, and an enigmatic deposit found within the site’s royal palace. Analyses of this assemblage serve the second goal: to propose a methodology for the analysis of complex deposits that examines artifacts individually and in detail, as well as in relation to other objects. Extending techniques drawn from osteological studies, the analysis of physical indicators of artifacts’ depositional histories revealed evidence of the reuse of curated refuse in ancient Maya ritual.
Keywords
Maya
Mesoamerica
El Zotz
waste
refuse
depositional history
Archaeology
Ethnohistory
Taphonomy
Notes
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2015)
Extent
xxxvii, 623 p.

Citation

Newman, Sarah E., "Rethinking Refuse: A History of Maya Trash" (2015). Anthropology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0CZ35KZ

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