Feathered Serpents and Pole Climbing Clowns: the Paradox of the Southwest/Northwest and Mesoamerican Connection

A comparison of the Southwest/Northwest and Mesoamerican culture areas reveals an intriguing paradox. Parallels occur in cosmology, iconography, metaphor, and ritual. Despite these parallels, the societies of the two regions remain qualitatively different. In the past, archaeologists have attempted to resolve this paradox by either denying significant connections between the regions (regionalists) or by seeing the SW/NW as the northernmost extension of Mesoamerica (Mesoamerican advocates). The vast majority of these scholars have been archaeologists working in the SW/NW. Regionalists seek an understanding based on the specifics of Southwest history and ethnography. Mesoamerican advocates argue for profound iconographic, cosmological, and metaphorical parallels and connections between the Southwest and the Mesoamerican religions. This has resulted in explanations for the connections between the two regions that are both too specific and too general. A multi-scalar relational approach presents an alternative to the two camps. Such comparisons necessitate approaching the problem from both the SW/NW and Mesoamerica. From this perspective, Dr. McGuire will ask how the relations between migrations, commerce, conquest, religion, and elites through time and in space made and remade the Southwest/Northwest and Mesoamerican connection.