Fremont Figurines: Communication and Corporality

 Expanded Abstract

The Fremont inhabited the western Colorado Plateau and eastern Great Basin from approximately 325 to 1450 AD. They were farmers and potters living in semi-subterranean, semi-permanent homes. The Fremont cultivated corn, beans, and squash, foraged for grass seeds, bulbs, and nuts and hunted. The Fremont village is best approximated at the horticultural band level, seasonally and in few particularly conducive places, the Fremont assumed larger communities. Most of the time Fremont settlements had between five and twelve nuclear families in permanent residence with a “loose religious system”.

The Fremont possessed the most complex figurine tradition in the American Southwest. 439 anthropomorphic Fremont figurines have been unearthered. Fremont figurines exhibit head gear, elongated appliquéd eyes, punctuated eyes, round appliquéd eyes, transverse ridged eyes, incised slit eyes, punctuated nose, pinched-up nose, ears, earrings, punctuated mouth, disengaged chin, shoulders, hair bobs, necklaces, appliquéd beads, appliquéd ribbons, belt, navel, basket imprints, dorsal concavity, handle terminus, stump-leg terminus and apron or skirt terminus. 

Considering the prehistoric/ethnographic Southwestern use of icons in pictographs, katchinas, and figurines to represent beings with humanlike characteristics; the valued place the figurines had in a culture of little materiality; the proliferation of contexts in which the figurines have been uncovered; the hand-size of the figurines; the implications of the figurines being involved in a trialogue communication process between prototypes and recipients; certain stylistic emitrons such as auspicious eyes; the possibility that the figurines’ panoply was mimicked in style; the discoveries of figurines in burials and ceremonial pithouses; the stylistic similarities with pictographs representing ethnographically recognizable beings of agency; the potentials that the figurines were useful in fertility practices as tools for the private shamans or public priests, and the suggestions that the figurines were victims of iconoclasm all suggest that the Fremont figurines embodied and emitted a modicum of humanlike agency within the Fremont cultural/matrix.

To download an article version of this research please visit the Hornemann Institute, a German cultural preservation wing of UNESCO, who has kindly agreed to represent the article. Follow the links to the theses on archaeology.

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