Patricia A. Gilman – “Social Contexts of Mimbres and Chaco Macaws”
Scarlet macaws were present and contemporary at Mimbres Classic and Chacoan sites from about A.D. 1000 to 1130, and they were the most spectacular item obtained from farther south in Mexico. Does the presence of macaws in these two Puebloan traditions indicate a similar use and meaning in both communities or even a relationship between them?
In short, people used macaws and parrots differently in the two regions. For example, about 30 scarlet macaws were concentrated at Pueblo Bonito, although one or two were present in each of three other Chaco Canyon sites. In contrast, perhaps as many as 15 scarlet macaws were spread among at least six Mimbres Classic sites, some of them within the Mimbres Valley core and some not. A Mimbres macaw was buried with a person or buried by itself beneath a room floor, in Great Kiva fill, or in a midden, while most of the Chaco macaws were on floors or in room fill.
These differences support the idea that there was little connection between Mimbres and Chaco in terms of how scarlet macaws were used and probably therefore their role within the social and religious systems. Recent research by several of us, including Stephen Plog, Adam Watson, and Steven LeBlanc, also suggests that people from the two areas may have obtained scarlet macaws from different parts of the Mesoamerican tropical rain forests. These patterns show the complexity in studying exotic items and ancient “trade” within their varying social contexts.
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