Bodies politic, bodies in stone : imagery of the human and the divine in the sculpture of Late Preclassic Kaminaljuyú, Guatemala

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2013-05

Authors

Henderson, Lucia

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Abstract

Bulldozed, effaced, and paved over by the buildings and winding streets of Guatemala City, the vast majority of the archaeological remains of Kaminaljuyú are now lost to us. This early site, which reached its peak during the Late Preclassic period (ca. 300BC-250AD), was once the largest and most influential site of the Maya highlands and one of the most important sites of early Mesoamerica. This dissertation, begun as an art historical salvage project, is at once documentary and analytical. It not only focuses on recording and preserving the Late Preclassic bas-relief stone sculptures of Kaminaljuyú through accurate technical drawings, but also provides cautious and detailed analyses regarding what this iconography can tell us about this ancient site. In essence, the following chapters approach, flesh out, and describe the bodies of Late Preclassic Kaminaljuyú---the stone bodies, the divine bodies, and the human bodies that interacted with them across the built landscape. They discuss topics like human sacrifice, the Principal Bird Deity, and the myriad supernatural forms related to water and wind at Kaminaljuyú. They consider the noisiness of performance, the sensory impact of costumed rulers, and the ways in which these kings utilized the mythical, supernatural, and divine to sustain their rule. In addition to untangling the complex iconography of these early sculptures, these chapters give voice to the significance of these stones beyond their carved surfaces. They contemplate the materiality of stone and the ways in which the kingly body and sculpted monuments were inscribed, made meaningful, and performed to establish and maintain ideological, socio-political, and economic structures. In essence, then, these chapters deal with the interwoven themes of stone and bone and flesh and blood; with the structuring of human, sculpted, and divine bodies; and with the performative role these bodies shared as transformative spaces where extraordinary things could happen. In other words, this dissertation not only addresses stone carvings as crucial points of access into the belief structures and political strategies of Kaminaljuyú, but as active participants in the social, economic, and ideological processes that shaped human history at this ancient site.

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