Projects Funded in 1995

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Degree Program
Location Project Title & Abstract
Clarissa Adamson
Ph.D. Hum Sci
Ghana (Akropong) Discourses of Disavowal: Religious Beliefs in Ghana

Advisor: Richard Grinker

I will be studying the relation of religious belief to class position in contemporary Ghana. I will examine how, in a primarily Christian section of Ghana, faith in the tradition Akan religious beliefs is both practiced and disavowed. I will examine the specific relation of class and affluence to discourses of disavowal and practices of faith to determine what relation social position has to religious belief. My trip will coincide with the Odwira festival, which will take place in the town of Akropong where I will be staying. The festival celebrates the founding of the town by the Akan people. Chiefs from the surrounding area come to Akan to celebrate their power and the power of their ancestors. The festival and the period preceding it mark a time to remember the dead and celebrate the Akan heritage. Because the festival is both a traditional celebration as well as an event which highlights Akan nationalism this should be a very interesting time to explore issues of belief.

Mark Oviatt
B.A. Clas Humanities
Morocco (al-Basra) Refinement of a Ceramic Typology: The Analysis of Handmade Wares and their Spatial Distribution at the site of al-Basra, Morocco

Advisor: Nancy Benco

The summer 1995 field research was conducted as part of my ongoing investigation of the ceramic record from the early Islamic urban site of al-Basra, Morocco (A.D. 800-1000). The fieldwork was geared toward refining the general ceramic typology and providing a spatial distribution for the ceramic collection in both the Industrial (or Artisan) and Residential zones. The main focus was in examining the handmade wares (i.e. the cooking vessels), which represent 12% of the total ceramic collection from the site. The research was in conjunction with intensive excavations being conducted on the Industrial and Residential zones.

Rachael Rezek
B.A. Anth
Morocco (al-Basra) An Investigation into the Manufacturing Technology and Typology of Berberware at the Early Islamic Site of al-Basra

Advisor: Nancy Benco

My proposed project is an analysis of the Berberware assemblage from the early Islamic site of al-Basra in Northern Morocco (ca. AD 800-1200). The two main goals of my research are to determine the manufacturing methods used in its production and to establish a useful typology of the collection (a red-painted creamware that constitutes 16% of the total pottery collection at the large urban site). Although it appears at most early Islamic sites, Berberware has received very little attention. The proposed research will focus on reconstructing the manufacturing process (forming and firing techniques) and on developing a more precise typology and chronology for the ware at al-Basra. It will, in addition, fit into a broader exploration of the social and economic record of the site.

Jean Schlessinger
M.A. Anth
Honduras (Rio Talgua region) Evidence of Status and Ritual in the Cueva de Rio Talgua

Advisor: James Brady

Edmund Leach and Victor Turner identify status and liminality as key concepts involved when the impotent human attempts to contact the powerful other. In doing preliminary research for my thesis on the significance of pre-Columbian mirrors, I have become familiar with the literature on Mesoamerican ritual and symbolism and believe that both caves and mirrors were used as vehicles for ritual contact with gods and ancestors. I propose to look for and document any evidence that indicates ritual activity, status, and symbolic meaning at this cave. Considering the cave as a "liminal zone," I will examine, in situ, the artifacts that skeletal remains that have been found and consider their relationship to the surrounding space where ritual might have taken place. I will look for any detail that may be of symbolic significance, e.g., the juxtaposition of a modified and unmodified skill which makes a statement about status. I believe the skeletal remains will be a rich source of symbolic meaning: skulls and long bones seem to have been very carefully positioned; some painted with red ochre; some skulls have been modified, some not.

Steven Velasquez
M.A. Anth
Honduras (Rio Talgua region) Talgua Cave Ceramic Vessels

Advisor: James Brady

The April discovery of the Cave of the Glowing Skulls is scientifically significant because of radiocarbon dates (800-980 BC) which place the remains of the Rio Talgua site at the beginning of coalescence of complex social society in Central America. Surface collections of ceramics from the Preclassic Talgua site revealed two paste compositions correlated with different sets of vessel forms. The temporal significance of these differences is unknown at the moment. My project seeks to establish the chronological sequence for the different vessel form/paste combinations.