Performing the feast: Visual display and suprahousehold commensalism in the Puebloan Southwest

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101 Scopus citations


Ceramic bowls from the Greater Southwest are used to show how changes in the exterior decoration of serving vessels are associated with the proxemics of ritual performances. Across the northern Southwest the first use of exterior designs and polychrome ceramics is during the Pueblo III period, which corresponds to a shift in settlement aggregation and the use of open plaza spaces. With the transition to the more enclosed plazas of the Early Pueblo IV period, smaller and less visible exterior designs were used. The trend reversed itself with the use of larger plazas at later Pueblo IV period sites, where serving bowls with greater visual impact were used. Panregional trends are bolstered by a case study from the Mogollon Rim region of Arizona to show how changes in the visual performance characteristics of bowls are associated with the spatial and social proxemics of suprahousehold feasting rituals. I use several characteristics of serving bowls including their size, slip colors, paint and slip contrasts, and the size of exterior designs. These are related to the size and diversity of performance spaces, including plazas, and to other evidence for changes in feasting practices, such as roasting features and faunal remains. I conclude that the changes seen in serving vessels are important for looking at shifts in the scale, visibility, and diversity of public gatherings within Ancestral Pueblo social and ritual trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-239
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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