This book of twenty-seven articles honors a leading figure in American archaeology and pre-Columbian art. Samuel K. Lothrop’s professional labors have ranged from the United States Southwest through Mexico and Central America to Peru, Chile, and Argentina. His work in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama has been especially fruitful.
The initial essay, “Archaeology, Then and Now,” is contributed by Lothrop himself. It narrates, with much personal recollection and observation, the changes in professional archaeology from 1915 to the present. The changes have been in the numbers of persons involved, in the conditions of travel, and in the conceptual frame of archaeological investigation. Lothrop has seen the establishment of stratigraphy, the development of techniques of absolute dating, and the systematic definition of periods and styles. His reminiscences are entertaining and informative.
In a second essay Lothrop discusses the consequences of Peruvian Paracas styles upon Central America. Here it is a question of the disruption of an integral design into various components and the reappearance of these components along a line of influence from Peru to southern Central America. The transmitted features are heads with spirals, forked and double tongues, dragon belts, and weeping eyes. These were incorporated into other designs, reoriented, elaborated, and otherwise modified, but the Peruvian influence itself appears indisputable. Lothrop believes that the diffusion was relatively late and that it depended on coastal navigation.
The remainder of the book consists of essays by other persons. The two that bear upon “historical” subjects, i.e. that treat of continuing events into the colonial period, are by George Kubler “On the Colonial Extinction of the Motifs of Pre-Columbian Art,” and by John Rowe on “The Chronology of Inca Wooden Cups.” The first analyzes formal survivals according to five categories (juxtaposition, convergence, explants, transplants, and fragments) and concludes that aboriginal motifs played only an insignificant role in colonial art history. The second traces changes in decoration and technique in wooden cup manufacture, identifying the approximate dates of style changes to the last known example in 1821.
Aztec and Colombian metal work are discussed in articles by Dudley Easby and William C. Root, Olmec and Maya jade in articles by M. W. Stirling and Elizabeth Easby. The clay figurines of western Sonora are the subject of an essay by F. J. Dockstader. A number of contributors consider aboriginal art and archaeology in Central America: Maya portraits of women (Tatiana Proskouriakoff); Holmul I pottery in British Honduras (Gordon Willey and James C. Gifford); a “heavy-eyed” type of Formative figurine from Kaminaljuyu (A. V. Kidder and E. M. Shook); Costa Rican jade motifs (Carlos Balser) and Costa Rican stone sculpture (Doris Stone); Panamanian grave associations and ceramics (Joy Mahler). Three articles, by A. Ledyard Smith, S. F. de Borhegyi, and Gordon F. Ekholm, concern ball games and their artifacts. Smith gives a detailed description of ball courts in highland Guatemala; Borhegyi proposes that the “slingstones” or “handstones” were used to deflect the ball; and Ekholm suggests that the West Indian stone “collars” were ballgame belts, worn at the hips. J. Eric Thompson makes a connection between depictions of dogs with lacerated ears and the disease called chiclero’s ulcer. An article by Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff analyzes the clay figurines of Colombia and proposes, on the basis of modern Chocó and Cuna practice, that they were used in shamanistic rituals for the curing of diseases. A cupisnique bird jar is described by Geoffrey Bushnell. Alan Sawyer examines the history and iconography of Nazca ceramics and Paracas textiles, and Junius B. Bird describes an embroidered sampler with a large number of Paracas-Nazca figures. Stone artifacts from Puerto Rico in the James L. Bailey collection are discussed by Irving Rouse. Finally Betty Meggers and Clifford Evans propose four “horizon styles” for the South American Tropical Forest, and two articles deal with Argentine topics: the Aguada culture by Alberto Rex González, and a genetic interpretation of the designs of Patagonian robes by Carl Schuster.
Thus the volume is a valuable miscellany, with many diverse subjects. Illustrations are sharp and clear. There is no index.