Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Geography and Anthropology
William V. Davidson
This dissertation documents the influence of Moravian missionary activities on the Miskito settlement landscape in eastern Honduras---particularly in the areas of settlement morphology, housing, agriculture, and cemeteries. Upon their arrival to the Mosquito Coast in 1849, the missionaries employed a three pronged approach consisting of proselyting, medical treatment, and education to convert the majority of the indigenous population. The missionaries' resulting influence was a significant component and major cultural force in the development of a distinctive Protestant region within Catholic Central America. Moravian contributions to the settlement landscape in sixty-four Miskito villages of eastern Honduras were documented through field observations of material culture, interviews, photographs, and document research in the Moravian Church archives. This information was used to map a hierarchy of Moravian centers illustrating spatially varying degrees of Moravian influence on the Miskito settlement landscape. Principal findings included: (1) Missionaries' modified Miskito settlement morphology by implementing a distinctive settlement type based on the Hurrnhut model whereby church buildings were located on a central square that was bisected by the village road; (2) Moravian church architecture in Honduras passed through three stages beginning with local forms and materials, continuing with European forms and both local and manufactured materials, and concluding with only imported, manufactured materials; (3) Moravian alterations to Miskito housing consisted of changes to form and materials including such the installation of outside walls and inside partitions, frame construction raised above the ground on posts, and the addition of an external kitchen and gallery; (4) Moravian influence on Miskito agriculture included the introduction of new seed crops, increased fruit tree cultivation, and the expansion of traditional dooryard gardens; (5) Missionaries modified Miskito burial practices by discouraging both the isingni ceremony and property destruction, and by instituting the Moravian Easter Dawn Service. Through the analysis of cultural landscapes this dissertation builds a greater understanding of (1) the role of religion in creating ethnic landscapes; (2) the historical and cultural processes involved in the development of a Protestant cultural region within Catholic Central America; and (3) how cultural landscapes may be used by indigenous, peoples to document claims to ancestral lands.
Tillman, Benjamin Farr, "The Miskito Settlement Landscape of Eastern Honduras, With Emphasis on the Moravian Contribution." (1999). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 7131.