Tracing the Relational

The Archaeology of Worlds, Spirits, and Temporalities

Tracing the Relational examines the recent emergence of relational ontologies in archaeological interpretation and how this perspective can help archaeologists better understand the past. Traditional representational approaches reflect modern or Western perspectives, which focus on the individual and see the world in terms of dichotomies that separate culture and nature, human and object, sacred and secular. In contrast, ancient societies saw themselves as connected to and entangled with other human and nonhuman entities. In order to gain deeper insight into how people in the ancient world lived, experienced, and negotiated their lives, contributors argue, archaeologists must explore the myriad relationships and entanglements between humans and other beings, places, and things. As contributors unravel these relationships, they demonstrate that movement is an inherent feature of these relational webs and is the driving force behind a continually shifting reality. Chapters focus on various regions and time periods throughout the Americas, tracing how movements between other-worldly dimensions, spirits and deities, and temporalities were integral to everyday life.

Meghan E. Buchanan is a research scientist for the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University Bloomington. She received an MA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a PhD from Indiana University.

B. Jacob Skousen is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He specializes in Midwestern archaeology, with an emphasis on Mississippian societies and the Cahokia site in southern Illinois. His research interests include religion, pilgrimage, movement, and relational ontologies.

Praise and Reviews:
“This is an excellent collection of essays that are timely, empirically rich, well written, and that engage with current theoretical debates within archaeology, as well as a range of other humanities disciplines. This volume will offer a significant contribution to archaeological research and anthropological scholarship more broadly, aligning itself with current theoretical trends while also pushing such scholarship in new and productive directions.”
—Darryl Wilkinson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This edited volume presents fascinating case studies of the material immanence of spirits and otherworldly forces in the ancient Americas. . . .The book makes an important contribution to archaeological theory.”—American Antiquity

“All of the articles are interesting in their pursuit of novel questions, consideration of previously overlooked kinds of data, and analysis of these data using new approaches.”—Journal of Anthropological Research

“The methods and interpretations within these pages are bold and original…. This book is a valuable contribution to archaeological theory and helps to restore the feasibility of postprocessual ambitions regarding inquiry into symbolic and cosmological realms of human past.”—Canadian Journal of Archaeology