Before Farming

Out of the underworld

landscape, kachinas, and pottery metaphors in the Rio Grande/Jornada rock-art tradition in the American Southwest

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (4), 1–11.

Abstract

Tied as it is to landscape, rock-art is a powerful vehicle for identifying and reconstructing past ideological systems regarding human relationships to natural environments. Rock-art can be used to help rediscover and define past cultural landscapes that have been rewritten by highways, cities, and other artefacts of the technological ideology of western culture. This study aims to show how rock-art – framed within its locational and graphic symbolism – may be used together with ethnographic information to understand the archaeological Puebloan landscape in connection with the Puebloan preoccupation with rain-making. Pueblo people of New Mexico and Arizona see themselves as integral parts of the historical/ecological processes that form their world (Anschuetz et al 2000:3.55), and the distribution of images on rocks in the Pueblo landscape – as is true elsewhere – is the result of a culturally prescribed, as opposed to random, interaction between people, their terrain, and their ideology of place. In essence, people project culture on to nature (Crumley & Marquardt 1990:73). Landscape as a cultural construct is derived from a people's patterned perceptions and interpretations of their natural environment (Anschuetz 1998). Worldviews embrace comprehensive ideas of how cultures conceive of the relationship of human society to the natural order. As part of worldview, the cultural landscape and its various features are invested with meanings and spiritual qualities, which in turn will affect where imagery, especially rock-art, is located. Pueblo people today link their identities with and establish spiritual connections to special places through words, thoughts, and feelings (Cajete 1994:43). Greg Cajete from Santa Clara Pueblo writes (1994:85): ‘Traditionally, the connection of Indian people to their land was a symbol of their connection to the spirit of life itself.’ Further:

The American Indian sense of place, and the importance of being in harmony is embodied in all cultural traditions. Our collective experience with the land, integrated by myth and ritual, expressed through social structures and arts, combines with a practiced system of environmental ethics and spiritual ecology to create a true connection with places and a full expression of ecological consciousness (ibid).

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Schaafsma, Polly