Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

Lecture: "The Ways of Witchcraft: Sorcery as Political Ideology among the Ancient Maya"

Mon, April 8, 2013 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM

David Stuart offers an innovative look at the political culture of the ancient Maya, focusing on the roles of sorcery and witchcraft in the ideology of statecraft during the so-called Late Classic period (ca. 600-850 CE). Both written texts and courtly art reveal that sorcery played a key part in the duties and practice of rulership, and therefore played a significant role in the expression of power dynamics among rival courts and city-states. Central to these ideas were the beings known as wahy, spook-like demons frequently depicted in Maya art, but long misunderstood as “underworld gods” or “animal souls.” These, I argue, are best seen as personified diseases or other animated negative forces associated with individual royal stations, and wielded by rulers as expressions of social and political control.

Dr. Stuart regularly conducts field research at numerous archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, where he specializes on the documentation and decipherment of Maya art and hieroglyphic inscriptions. His research of late focuses on the art and epigraphy at Copan (Honduras), Palenque (Mexico), La Corona, Xultun and San Bartolo (Guatemala). In addition to his role on the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin, Stuart oversees the university's Mesoamerica Center, which fosters multi-disciplinary studies on ancient American art and culture. He is also Director of Casa Herrera, UT's international academic research center in Antigua, Guatemala, devoted to studies in the art, archaeology and culture of Mesoamerica.

For more information, contact the Department of Anthropology at 512.471.4206.

Sponsored by: Department of Anthropology

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

    University of Texas at Austin
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