Tracing Sixteenth Century Beads in South America to Understand Their Impact on Indigenous Ritual Practices and Material Culture at the Time of the Spanish Conquest
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CitationFeinzig, Kristi May. 2017. Tracing Sixteenth Century Beads in South America to Understand Their Impact on Indigenous Ritual Practices and Material Culture at the Time of the Spanish Conquest. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis examines bead preferences in Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia before and after the Spanish Conquest during the sixteenth century. By examining the spread of beads across a region, I was able to gain insight into colors and materials that people desired and identify potential patterns of resistance to glass beads. Information about the cultures and societies of my study are gleaned from examining glass and shell bead dispersion and their use before and after this period of significant cultural impact.
Using beads from the collections of The Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, The Field Museum of Natural History, and several other museums, the frequency of beads colors and materials are analyzed to help determine the value of glass beads in various regions. If there were no cultural preferences or significance by color or material, the analysis should provide a random distribution of Spanish introduced glass beads throughout each region. A chi-square test (p< 0.001) indicated that the distribution is not random. Correlations between color and material also show that regions in which there were more shell or white and brown beads were least likely to have glass beads.
This study shows that indigenous people did not replace pre-existing shell and stone beads, particularly shiny, white and natural-colored beads which had cultural significance, with glass beads in their ritual practices. Using statistical analyses of bead dispersion, this thesis makes an important contribution to a small body of research on beads in South America during this era.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33813391