Animate objects: Shell trumpets and ritual networks in the greater southwest

Barbara J. Mills, T. J. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


For over a millennium, shell trumpets have been an important part of Southwestern US ritual practice. We investigate the distribution of Southwestern shell trumpets, arguing that they are objects that are accorded animacy and can be used to track the history of different social networks. Using ethnohistoric and ethnographic documentation, at least two traditions of historically linked ritual practices are identified: one associated with serpent iconography and the other with curing, warfare, and sorcery. These two traditions represent enduring dispositions that link various regions of the Southwest through the introduction and adoption of ritual practices associated with migration and the transformation of late prehistoric societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-361
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Animacy
  • Materiality
  • Ritual practice
  • Southwest archaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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