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June 15, 2021 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Hosted online. Register below.
SAR member: $150 // Course fee + one year Arroyo Hondo membership: $200 // Recorded sessions only: $50

This course has already started. We do have a “recorded sessions” option that will be available shortly. 

Course Description: 

This course explores the Amazonian cult of the Woman Shaman and her spirit animal, the anaconda. The art style associated with the cult starts as long ago as 2000 years BP in prehistory and continues to this day among some Amazonian groups.

The great aquatic boa of Amazonia, the anaconda Eunectes spp. (“good swimmer” in Greek), is a fascinating animal with a long history of involvement in indigenous cosmology and culture in the tropical lowlands of South America. Its image and the related spiritual and social concepts are present in various forms in prehistory and among living tribes. Large snakes appear first in astronomical depictions in Paleoindian rock art, and anacondas and their skin patterns become very common in the art of the Polychrome horizon from 2000 years ago to today. In ethnographic cultures, its significance in animistic religion and social organization is made clear in people’s testimonies. For them, a supernatural Great Anaconda is the spirit twin of Woman Shaman, leader of the renowned “Amazon women”. She was the creator of the Amazon and one of the preeminent ancestral deities along with her husband, the Sun. She is said by Amazonians to have invented religion and the arts. In choosing the anaconda for this pre-eminent role in their cosmology and culture, Amazonians were influenced both by their acute observations of anaconda ecology and behavior and by their deep understanding of human relations with the environment and each other.

Across the three sessions Anna Roosevelt will present the archaeological evidence of the cult and its relationship to settlement patterns; the ethnographic evidence of its importance in myth, ritual, and art; and the varied influence of the cult in the social organization of the societies of its adherents.

Course Leader: Anna C. Roosevelt

Anna Roosevelt. Photo by Michael F. Brown.

Anna Roosevelt. Photo by Michael F. Brown.

A.C. Roosevelt is a four-field anthropologist interested in social and biological evolution, human-environment interaction, and human rights. She has been a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Chicago, since 1994. Prior positions include curatorships at the Museum of the American Indian, the Field Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and visiting/adjunct positions at NYU, Harvard, and University of Florida. She is also an adjunct professor in the doctoral program “History and Atlantic Connections: Cultures and Powers”, at the Federal University of Maranhao, Sao Luis, Brazil.

Her research on the history and prehistory of the tropical forests and the peopling of the Americas has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and other agencies. Roosevelt is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Anthropological Association, and the MacArthur Foundation and has been awarded medals from Brazil, the Society of Women Geographers, and the Explorers Club.


This course will take place across three sessions:

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 // 10:00 am (Mountain Time)

Thursday, June 10 // 10:00 am (Mountain Time)

Tuesday, June 15 // 10:00 am (Mountain Time)

Course Fees:

SAR member: $150 // non-member (course fee + one year Arroyo Hondo membership): $200 // Recorded sessions only: $50

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