Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents

Author: Rex Koontz
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 0292779887
Format: PDF
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El Tajín, an ancient Mesoamerican capital in Veracruz, Mexico, has long been admired for its stunning pyramids and ballcourts decorated with extensive sculptural programs. Yet the city's singularity as the only center in the region with such a wealth of sculpture and fine architecture has hindered attempts to place it more firmly in the context of Mesoamerican history. In Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents, Rex Koontz undertakes the first extensive treatment of El Tajín's iconography in over thirty years, allowing us to view its imagery in the broader Mesoamerican context of rising capitals and new elites during a period of fundamental historical transformations. Koontz focuses on three major architectural features—the Pyramid of the Niches/Central Plaza ensemble, the South Ballcourt, and the Mound of the Building Columns complex—and investigates the meanings of their sculpture and how these meanings would have been experienced by specific audiences. Koontz finds that the iconography of El Tajín reveals much about how motifs and elite rites growing out of the Classic period were transmitted to later Mesoamerican peoples as the cultures centered on Teotihuacan and the Maya became the myriad city-states of the Early Postclassic period. By reexamining the iconography of sculptures long in the record, as well as introducing important new monuments and contexts, Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents clearly demonstrates El Tajín's numerous iconographic connections with other areas of Mesoamerica, while also exploring its roots in an indigenous Gulf lowlands culture whose outlines are only now emerging. At the same time, it begins to uncover a largely ignored regional artistic culture of which Tajín is the crowning achievement.

Maya Political Science

Author: Prudence M. Rice
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 0292757840
Format: PDF, Kindle
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How did the ancient Maya rule their world? Despite more than a century of archaeological investigation and glyphic decipherment, the nature of Maya political organization and political geography has remained an open question. Many debates have raged over models of centralization versus decentralization, superordinate and subordinate status—with far-flung analogies to emerging states in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But Prudence Rice asserts that neither the model of two giant "superpowers" nor that which postulates scores of small, weakly independent polities fits the accumulating body of material and cultural evidence. In this groundbreaking book, Rice builds a new model of Classic lowland Maya (AD 179-948) political organization and political geography. Using the method of direct historical analogy, she integrates ethnohistoric and ethnographic knowledge of the Colonial-period and modern Maya with archaeological, epigraphic, and iconographic data from the ancient Maya. On this basis of cultural continuity, she constructs a convincing case that the fundamental ordering principles of Classic Maya geopolitical organization were the calendar (specifically a 256-year cycle of time known as the may) and the concept of quadripartition, or the division of the cosmos into four cardinal directions. Rice also examines this new model of geopolitical organization in the Preclassic and Postclassic periods and demonstrates that it offers fresh insights into the nature of rulership, ballgame ritual, and warfare among the Classic lowland Maya.

Precolumbian Water Management

Author: Lisa Joyce Lucero
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
ISBN: 9780816523146
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Among ancient Mesoamerican and Southwestern peoples, water was as essential as maize for sustenance and was a driving force in the development of complex society. Control of water shaped the political, economic, and religious landscape of the ancient Americas, yet it is often overlooked in Precolumbian studies. Now one volume offers the latest thinking on water systems and their place within the ancient physical and mental language of the region. Precolumbian Water Management examines water management from both economic and symbolic perspectives. Water management facilities, settlement patterns, shrines, and water-related imagery associated with civic-ceremonial and residential architecture provide evidence that water systems pervade all aspects of ancient society. Through analysis of such data, the contributors seek to combine an understanding of imagery and the religious aspects of water with its functional components, thereby presenting a unified perspective of how water was conceived, used, and represented in ancient greater Mesoamerica. The collection boasts broad chronological and geographical coverageÑfrom the irrigation networks of Teotihuacan to the use of ritual water technology at Casas GrandesÑthat shows how procurement and storage systems were adapted to local conditions. The articles consider the mechanisms that were used to build upon the sacredness of water to enhance political authority through time and space and show that water was not merely an essential natural resource but an important spiritual one as well, and that its manipulation was socially far more complex than might appear at first glance. As these papers reveal, an understanding of materials associated with water can contribute much to the ways that archaeologists study ancient cultural systems. Precolumbian Water Management underscores the importance of water management research and the need to include it in archaeological projects of all types.

The Memory of Bones

Author: Stephen Houston
Publisher: University of Texas Press
ISBN: 0292756186
Format: PDF, Mobi
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All of human experience flows from bodies that feel, express emotion, and think about what such experiences mean. But is it possible for us, embodied as we are in a particular time and place, to know how people of long ago thought about the body and its experiences? In this groundbreaking book, three leading experts on the Classic Maya (ca. AD 250 to 850) marshal a vast array of evidence from Maya iconography and hieroglyphic writing, as well as archaeological findings, to argue that the Classic Maya developed a coherent approach to the human body that we can recover and understand today. The authors open with a cartography of the Maya body, its parts and their meanings, as depicted in imagery and texts. They go on to explore such issues as how the body was replicated in portraiture; how it experienced the world through ingestion, the senses, and the emotions; how the body experienced war and sacrifice and the pain and sexuality that were intimately bound up in these domains; how words, often heaven-sent, could be embodied; and how bodies could be blurred through spirit possession. From these investigations, the authors convincingly demonstrate that the Maya conceptualized the body in varying roles, as a metaphor of time, as a gendered, sexualized being, in distinct stages of life, as an instrument of honor and dishonor, as a vehicle for communication and consumption, as an exemplification of beauty and ugliness, and as a dancer and song-maker. Their findings open a new avenue for empathetically understanding the ancient Maya as living human beings who experienced the world as we do, through the body.

The Art of Urbanism

Author: William Leonard Fash
Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780884023449
Format: PDF
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The Art of Urbanism explores how the royal courts of powerful Mesoamerican centers represented their kingdoms in architectural, iconographic, and cosmological terms. Through an investigation of the ecological contexts and environmental opportunities of urban centers, the contributors consider how ancient Mesoamerican cities defined themselves and reflected upon their physicalâe"and metaphysicalâe"place via their built environment. Themes in the volume include the ways in which a kingdomâe(tm)s public monuments were fashioned to reflect geographic space, patron gods, and mythology, and how the Olmec, Maya, Mexica, Zapotecs, and others sought to center their world through architectural monuments and public art. This collection of papers addresses how communities leveraged their environment and built upon their cultural and historical roots as well as the ways that the performance of calendrical rituals and other public events tied individuals and communities to both urban centers and hinterlands. Twenty-three scholars from archaeology, anthropology, art history, and religious studies contribute new data and new perspectives to the understanding of ancient Mesoamericansâe(tm) own view of their spectacular urban and ritual centers.

Art and Myth of the Ancient Maya

Author: Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 0300224672
Format: PDF
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This nuanced account explores Maya mythology through the lens of art, text, and culture. It offers an important reexamination of the mid-16th-century Popol Vuh, long considered an authoritative text, which is better understood as one among many crucial sources for the interpretation of ancient Maya art and myth. Using materials gathered across Mesoamerica, Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos bridges the gap between written texts and artistic representations, identifying key mythical subjects and uncovering their variations in narratives and visual depictions. Central characters—including a secluded young goddess, a malevolent grandmother, a dead father, and the young gods who became the sun and the moon—are identified in pottery, sculpture, mural painting, and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Highlighting such previously overlooked topics as sexuality and generational struggles, this beautifully illustrated book paves the way for a new understanding of Maya myths and their lavish expression in ancient art.

Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks

Author: Karl A. Taube
Publisher: Dumbarton Oaks
ISBN: 9780884022756
Format: PDF, ePub
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Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks presents the Olmec portion of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. It illustrates all thirty-nine Olmec art objects in color plates and includes many complementary and comparative black-and-white illustrations and drawings. The body of Pre-Columbian art that Robert Bliss carefully assembled over a half-century between 1912 and 1963, amplified only slightly since his death, is a remarkably significant collection. In addition to their aesthetic quality and artistic significance, the objects hold much information regarding the social worlds and religious and symbolic views of the people who made and used them before the arrival of Europeans in the New World. This volume is the second in a series of catalogues that will treat objects in the Bliss Pre-Columbian Collection. The majority of the Olmec objects in the collection are made of jade, the most precious material for the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica from early times through the sixteenth century. Various items such as masks, statuettes, jewelry, and replicas of weapons and tools were used for ceremonial purposes and served as offerings. Karl Taube brings his expertise on the lifeways and beliefs of ancient Mesoamerican peoples to his study of the Olmec objects in teh Bliss collection. His understanding of jade covers a broad range of knowledge from chemical compositions to geological sources to craft technology to the symbolic power of the green stone. Throughout the book the author emphasizes the role of jade as a powerful symbol of water, fertility, and particularly, of the maize plant which was the fundamental source of life and sustenance for the Olmec. The shiny green of the stone was analogous to the green growth of maize. This fundamental concept was elaborated in specific religious beliefs, many of which were continued and elaborated by later Mesoamerican peoples, such as the Maya. Karl Taube employs his substantial knowledge of Pre-Columbian cultures to explore and explicate Olmec symbolism in this catalogue.

The Unbroken Thread

Author: Kathryn Klein
Publisher: Getty Publications
ISBN: 0892363819
Format: PDF
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Housed in the former 16th-century convent of Santo Domingo church, now the Regional Museum of Oaxaca, Mexico, is an important collection of textiles representing the area’s indigenous cultures. The collection includes a wealth of exquisitely made traditional weavings, many that are now considered rare. The Unbroken Thread: Conserving the Textile Traditions of Oaxaca details a joint project of the Getty Conservation Institute and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico to conserve the collection and to document current use of textile traditions in daily life and ceremony. The book contains 145 color photographs of the valuable textiles in the collection, as well as images of local weavers and project participants at work. Subjects include anthropological research, ancient and present-day weaving techniques, analyses of natural dyestuffs, and discussions of the ethical and practical considerations involved in working in Latin America to conserve the materials and practices of living cultures.

Handbook to Life in the Aztec World

Author: Manuel Aguilar-Moreno
Publisher: Infobase Publishing
ISBN: 0816074836
Format: PDF, ePub, Mobi
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Captures the essence of life in great civilizations of the past. Each volume in this series examines a single civilization, and covers everything from landmark events and monumental achievements to geography and everyday life.

Popol Vuh

Author: Dennis Tedlock
Publisher: eBookIt.com
ISBN: 1456613030
Format: PDF, Mobi
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Popol Vuh, the Quiché Mayan book of creation is not only the most important text in the native language of the Americas, it is also an extraordinary document of the human imagination. It begins with the deeds of Mayan Gods in the darkness of a primeval sea and ends with the radiant splendor of the Mayan Lords who founded the Quiché Kingdom in the Guatemalan highlands. Originally written in Mayan hieroglyphs, it was translated into the Roman alphabet in the 16th century. The new edition of Dennis Tedlock's unabridged, widely praised translation includes new notes and commentary, newly translated passages, newly deciphered hieroglyphs, and over 40 new illustrations.