Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas

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Overview

Icons of Power investigates why the image of the cat has been such a potent symbol in the art, religion and mythology of indigenous American cultures for three thousand years.
The jaguar and the puma epitomize ideas of sacrifice, cannibalism, war, and status in a startling array of graphic and enduring images. Natural and supernatural felines inhabit a shape-shifting world of sorcery and spiritual power, revealing the shamanic nature of Amerindian world views. This pioneering collection offers a unique pan-American assessment of the feline icon through the diversity of cultural interpretations, but also striking parallels in its associations with hunters, warriors, kingship, fertility, and the sacred nature of political power. Evidence is drawn from the pre-Columbian Aztec and Maya of Mexico, Peruvian, and Panamanian civilizations, through recent pueblo and Iroquois cultures of North America, to current Amazonian and Andean societies.
This well-illustrated volume is essential reading for all who are interested in the symbolic construction of animal icons, their variable meanings, and their place in a natural world conceived through the lens of culture. The cross-disciplinary approach embraces archaeology, anthropology, and art history.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Draws evidence from the Precolumbian Aztec, Maya, Tembladera, Panamanian, and Columbian cultures as well as from the more recent Iroquois, Pueblo, Amazonian, and Araucanian societies to show how the jaguar and puma have been and are used as symbols of sacrifice, cannibalism, and war in the art, religion, and mythology of a wide range of American peoples. Also throws light on the differing perceptions of nature across the Western Hemisphere and the impact of the European contact. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415153270
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas J. Saunders has held research fellowship and teaching positions in Mexico, the USA, Trinidad, Jamaica and the United Kingdom. He is currently a Visiting Fellow in the archaeology department at Southampton University.

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Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
1 Introduction: Icons of power 1
2 Architecture of symbolism: The feline image 12
3 The lord, the ruler: Jaguar symbolism in the Americas 53
4 The Felidae in Pre-Columbian Panama: A thematic approach to their imagery and symbolism 77
5 Feline symbolism and material culture in prehistoric Colombia 122
6 The jaguar of the backward glance 155
7 Paragon or peril? The jaguar in Amazonian Indian society 171
8 Felines, patronyms, and history of the Araucanians in the southern Andes 203
9 Mountain Lions and Pueblo shrines in the American Southwest 228
10 Long-Tail: The panther in Huron-Wyandot and Seneca myth, ritual, and material culture 258
Index 292
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