Fire, Ash, and Sanctuary: Pyrotechnology as Protection in the Precolonial Northern Rio Grande

Agent of Change: The Deposition and Manipulation of Ash in the Past Berghahn Books New York Published In Pages: 76-93
By Adler, Michael A.


This survey chapter discusses the use of ash and other fire-generated materials in Ancestral Pueblo settlements in the northern Rio Grande region. The author begins by surveying ethnographic reports of ash use among indigenous groups in the Southwest and Great Basin regions to understand the potential reasons for ash use in prehistoric contexts beyond just cooking. He then turns to archaeological data to explore the extensive use of fire, ash, and other pyrotechnic products across indigenous communities in the region, focusing on excavated architectural and mortuary contexts from the northern Rio Grande, especially the Taos and Picuris areas. The author argues that these fire-related actions and products show that ash plays two major roles -- it is used as a part of major transition ceremonies and as an instrument for healing. The author concludes that these ethnographic observations inform and illuminate archaeological contexts that contain ash, charcoal, and fire.


This chapter makes no attempt to assert causality, and seeks only to identify cultural practices involving ash and their prevalence in the Southwest United States.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
eHRAF World CulturesResearcher's own1,207 paragraphs about ash across nine different Southwestern and Great Basin cultures.

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:jacob.kalodner