Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

Aug
2
6:30 PM18:30

AUGUST MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Reassembling the Mortuary Assemblage: New Investigations into the Field Museum of Natural History’s Osteological and Archaeological Collections from Ancón, Peru, Nicole Slovak, PhD, Santa Rosa Junior College

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.

The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

Paracas mummy bundle from Ancón

The Field Museum of Natural History’s (FMNH) osteological and artefactual collection from Ancón, Peru amassed by George Dorsey in 1891 represents one of the best-preserved archaeological assemblages from the site. Over the last century, however, mummies and grave goods have become disassociated from one another and archaeological context has been lost. This presentation traces the fate of the Ancón mummies from excavation to exhibition to curation, and presents the results of recent efforts carried out at the FMNH to reconstruct original mortuary assemblages. For the first time in more than a century, the life stories of some of Ancón’s ancient residents can now be written.

Dr. Nikki Slovak is an archaeologist whose research focuses on the Middle Horizon and Late Intermediate Periods of Peru. She received her PhD from Stanford University in 2007 under the direction of Dr. John Rick, and her B.A. from The Catholic University of America, where she studied under Dr. Anita Cook. Her theoretical interests include issues of culture contact, residential mobility, and identity and how those themes manifest themselves in mortuary practices. Methodologically, she employs a multidisciplinary approach to funerary archaeology, in which the cultural and biological aspects of burial are viewed together in an effort to best understand aspects of past human behavior.

Dr. Slovak is a full-time Anthropology faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College in northern California and Director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Biological Anthropology Laboratory. Her current research projects include a multi-phase study of the Field Museum of Natural History’s mortuary collection from Ancón Peru and a collaboration with the Chavín Archaeological Project to analyze strontium isotope signatures from historic human burials encountered at the site of Chavín de Huántar, Peru. At present, Dr. Slovak is at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. as a One-Month Research Fellow. She lives in Sonoma County, CA with her husband and three young daughters.

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Jul
12
6:45 PM18:45

JULY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Large Wari Khipu at Dumbarton Oaks: Preliminary Analysis of a Cord-Constructed Document

Jeffrey C. Splitstoser, PhD, George Washington University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.

The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.


Khipus—string devices that employ color, knots, and position to record information—were in all likelihood developed by the Wari (ca. 600–1000 CE) as an administrative aid for running their empire, which was South America’s first. Khipus were still in use by the Inkas whose empire flourished 500 years after the fall of the Wari. Much of what we know about Inka khipus comes from court translations and first-hand written accounts of their use.

Large Wari khipu at Dumbarton Oaks, PC.WBC.2016.068, courtesy of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Large Wari khipu at Dumbarton Oaks, PC.WBC.2016.068, courtesy of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum

Unfortunately, no primary information exists for Wari khipus, so our understanding of them must come from either inference from what is known about Inka and later khipus or from deductions made from thorough studies of archaeological Wari khipus, their contexts, and associations (when they exist). My study of Wari khipus indicates that Wari, Inka, and post-Inka khipus share many, if not most, of the same attributes, suggesting that the recent breakthroughs in our understanding of Inka, Colonial, and Republican khipus may also be applicable to Wari khipus.

This talk will focus on a large Wari khipu donated to the Dumbarton Oaks by Barbara and William Conklin in 2016. It is the largest known Wari khipu, consisting of approximately 1,000 colored, wrapped, and knotted cords, and its cords contain most if not all of the significant attributes used to encode information in Wari, Inka, and post-Inka khipu traditions. As such, the “large Wari khipu,” or LWK, makes an ideal subject for discussing what we know about Wari khipus and how they might have encoded information..

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Dr. Jeffrey C. Splitstoser is an Assistant Research Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. He is also a research associate of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, and a Cosmos Club scholar. Splitstoser was a Junior Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks (2005‒2006). As a specialist in ancient Andean textiles, he is part of the Castillo de Huarmey archaeological project, which is excavating Wari textiles and khipus (see the June 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine). Splitstoser recently received notoriety as the textile specialist for the Huaca Prieta Archaeological Project, directed by Dr. Tom Dillehay, where he studied 6,200 year old cotton textiles dyed with the world’s earliest known use of indigo. He received his Master’s degree (1999) and Ph.D. (2009) in anthropology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. His dissertation is a study of the Early Paracas textiles from Cerrillos in the Ica Valley of Peru. Splitstoser was appointed by Dr. George E. Stuart to serve as Vice President of the Boundary End Center (BEC), a research facility and retreat in western North Carolina, and editor of its two peer-reviewed journals, Ancient America and the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing .

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Jun
7
6:45 PM18:45

JUNE MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Beyond Paleocoastal Colonization of the Americas: What Happened Next and Why it Matters, Torben Rick, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.




The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

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Interest in the initial colonization of North America is at an all-time high, fueled by new archaeological discoveries and genetics. Still questions about when people first came to the Americas and what routes they followed (terrestrial vs. coastal) are hotly contested. Lost in the shuffle is an equally important question about what happened next?  How did people transform the North American continent and what can the Early and Middle Holocene archaeological record tell us about changes to a continent newly populated with people? This talk explores these and other questions through recent archaeological research on California’s Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Coast.

Torben Rick is Curator of Human Environmental Interactions and North American Archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Rick’s research focuses on archaeology and historical ecology, particularly in coastal regions. He has active field projects on California’s Channel Islands and the Chesapeake Bay, which are collaborative with researchers from a variety of disciplines (anthropology, biology, ecology, etc.) and explore ancient and modern human environmental interactions. Much of Rick’s research emphasizes the zooarchaeology of marine and terrestrial organisms.

Torben is a member of the Social Science Coordinating Committee for the United States Global Change Research Program and a member of the Society for American Archaeology’s Committee on Climate Change. He sits on the editorial board for American AntiquityJournal of EthnobiologyJournal of Island and Coastal Archaeology,AnthropoceneAdvances in Archaeological Practice, and California Archaeology. He was co-editor of the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology from 2012-2017.

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May
3
6:45 PM18:45

MAY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Perpetual Consumption: Central Mexican-Maya Relations in the Mesoamerican Longue Durée, Trent Barnes, PhD candidate, Harvard University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.


The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

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While scholars acknowledge that Maya cultures exhibit a strong degree of continuity across a timespan of more than a millennium, the coherence of ancestry between central Mexican cultures has yet to gain broad acceptance.  Many scholars still object to claims that the Post-Classic Mexica Aztec civilization (ca. 1325 – 1521 CE) bears any substantive relationship to the proceeding regional cultures of the Toltec (ca. 800 – 1100 CE) or Teotihuacan (ca. 50 BCE – 600 CE).  This paper traces patterns of cultural interaction between these central Mexican cultures and the Maya of modern-day Yucatan, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize over the longue durée of the Mesoamerican Classic and Post-Classic periods.  This examination of central Mexican-Maya foreign relations will demonstrate that central Mexicans displayed consistent patterns of hostility towards and tribute extraction from the Maya.  The prolonged consistency of this pattern lends credence to the notion that central Mexican civilizations exhibited a degree of cultural continuity similar in time depth to that found among their counterparts to the east.


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Trent Barnes is the William R. Tyler Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks from 2018–2020.  He holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA from Harvard University, and remains a PhD Candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at the latter institution.  His research concerns the art and architectural history of the Pre-Columbian Americas.  His dissertation, “Walking the Space of Time: Void and Body in the Architecture of Teotihuacan, Mexico,” will comprise the first monographic architectural history of the largest pre-Hispanic urban development of the New World.  From 2017 – 2018 he was the Sylvan C. Coleman and Pam Coleman Memorial Fund Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he assisted in the exhibition run of Golden Kingdoms

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Apr
5
6:45 PM18:45

APRIL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

New Analyses of a Codex and a Lienzo from the National Museum of the American Indian Collection,  Leah Bright, MS, National Museum of the American Indian

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.


The meeting will start with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture will begin at 7:15 pm.

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Two mid-16th century Mexican pictographic documents in the collection of the National Museum of the American Indian, a codex on amate paper from the Valley of Mexico and a lienzo on a large cotton textile from Puebla, have been well studied by historians and archaeologists yet have never been the subjects of a technical study. This paper presents the preliminary analytical results of a study that aims to holistically understand the object’s biographies, from manufacture and use through accession and conservation. In addition to technical analysis, this project looks to re-contextualize the codex and lienzo by strengthening our understanding of their relationships to historic and contemporary indigenous documentary traditions in Mexico.


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Leah Bright is currently a second-year Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Objects Conservation at the National Museum of the American Indian. She graduated with an MS from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2017, and as a graduate student completed conservation internships at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, Arizona, the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, and the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Leah graduated with a BA in Art History and Spanish from the University of Oregon in 2010, where she focused her studies on the intersection of art and border policies along the US-Mexico border. 

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Mar
1
6:45 PM18:45

MARCH MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Ancient Urban Landscapes: Project Plaza of the Columns Complex at Teotihuacan, Mexico, Nawa Sugiyama, PhD, George Mason University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

NOTE: Photo ID may be required to enter the building.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Teotihuacan LiDAR Map  Copyright: Project Plaza of the Columns Complex

Teotihuacan LiDAR Map

Copyright: Project Plaza of the Columns Complex

With 54% of the world’s population living in urban zones, investigating the nature and impact of urban centers has never been more relevant. Prehistoric urban landscapes are bountiful storehouses of data for dissecting social and demographic processes that drive and maintain the complex system of urbanism and sculpt its legacy into the terrain. Project Plaza of the Columns Complex (PPCC) explores this subject through the examination of a premier archetype of pre-industrial urban systems in the New World, at Teotihuacan Mexico. Three research questions will be examined. 1) How do we characterize the ecological imprint of pre-industrial urban systems like Teotihuacan? 2) How did sociopolitical structures at Teotihuacan emerge? And, 3) why do urban systems like Teotihuacan collapse?

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Nawa Sugiyama is an Assistant Professor at the Sociology and Anthropology Department at George Mason University. Her research focuses on Mesoamerican archaeology, human-animal interactions, zooarchaeology and isotope bone chemistry. She is co-director of Project Plaza of the Columns Complex, excavating a civil-administrative complex at the core of Teotihuacan, Mexico (http://ppcteotihuacan.org).  Dr. Sugiyama received her PhD from Harvard University, where her dissertational research focused on faunal remains from Teo. She completed post-doctoral studies as a Peter Buck Fellow at the National Museum of National History in Washington, D.C. 



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Feb
1
6:45 PM18:45

FEBRUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Thinking Outside—and Inside—the “Tortuguero Box”: On the Road with the Miniature Classic Maya Wooden Coffer, John B. Carlson, PhD, Center for Archaeoastronomy and University of Maryland

THE SUMNER SCHOOL IS OPEN. TONIGHT’S MEETING WILL BE HELD AS SCHEDULED

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. NOTE: Photo ID is required to enter the building.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

(c) Justin Kerr 339d with permission.

(c) Justin Kerr 339d with permission.

A remarkable survivor from the Classic Maya culture of ancient Mexico is a miniature lidded hardwood coffer with a substantial carved glyphic text and intriguing imagery. Known universally as the “Tortuguero Box,” it was allegedly found in the 1960’s by looters in a dry cave cache near the Chiapas – Tabasco border not far from the Maya site of Tortuguero. This and other reputedly associated perishable artifacts that survived the humid conditions are known as the “Grolier Cache”, due to its most important member, the oldest known pre-Hispanic book, the “Códice Maya de México”, formerly known as the Grolier Codex.  

The aristocratic owner of the Box, Aj K’ax B’ahlam, is pictured on the lid, holding a staff in his right hand and probably the Box itself in his left. He is depicted as a nobleman, perhaps preparing to embark on a journey. The dedication date, 14 Oct 681 CE, records his investiture under the Tortuguero ruler into a royal “Bird Head” office whose exact nature has remained enigmatic. Now in the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Library of Congress, the Box still holds a small greenstone figurine, reportedly found inside according to Mayanist Michael Coe (1974).  

This multidisciplinary presentation explores the history and purpose of the Tortuguero Box and other related artifacts. What were such miniature coffers used for, were they taken on a journey or not, and can we know their original and perhaps repurposed contents? The “Bird Head” office and the elite status and functions of the officeholder are also explored.

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John B. Carlson, an astronomer by training, is the Director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy, a non-profit institute for research and education related to inter-disciplinary studies of the astronomical practices, celestial lore, religions, and world-views of ancient civilizations and contemporary indigenous cultures of the world.  Dr. Carlson is an expert on Native American astronomy, specializing in studies of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and is Editor-in-Chief of the ARCHAEOASTRONOMY Journal. The art, iconography, calendar systems, and hieroglyphic writing of the Maya and Highland Mexican civilizations are particular interests, and the “archaeology of pilgrimage” is a current special research focus. In 2005 and 2006, Carlson was the Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Center for Scholarly Research at the U. S. Library of Congress where he completed a long-term comprehensive study of “Maya Flasks and Miniature Vessels.” One current continuing research project is the “Códice Maya de México”, formerly known as the Grolier Codex, and the other perishable artifacts—including the Tortuguero Box—allegedly found with it. Dr. Carlson is Senior Lecturer in the University Honors College, University of Maryland - College Park, where he teaches courses in Astronomy, Anthropology, History of Science and Apocalypticism.  

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Jan
4
6:45 PM18:45

JANUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Of Software and Ceramics:  3D Digital Modeling and Visual Narrative at Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico, Ellen Hoobler, PhD, The Walters Art Museum

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. NOTE: Photo ID is required to enter the building.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

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The site of Monte Albán in Oaxaca, is one of the most impressive sites in the pre-Columbian world, but remains poorly understood, in part because its central plaza was so extensively excavated in the 1930s and ‘40s by the archaeologist Alfonso Caso, who never fully published his finds at the site. This talk discusses how archival research can rescue lost archaeological data and therefore salvage content.  I will also discuss how 3D digital modeling can help us better understand context at previously excavated sites such as Monte Albán.


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Ellen Hoobler is the William B. Ziff, Jr., Associate Curator of Art of the Americas at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD.  Prior to joining the Walters, Hoobler was Assistant Professor of Art History at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA. Hoobler holds a doctorate from Columbia University in Art History and Archaeology.  A specialist on pre-Columbian art and its historiography, she most recently was the co-editor of Visual Culture in the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.) She also has recently published or in-press contributions to the Walters Art Museum Journal and the Journal of Interactive technology and Pedagogy.  

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Dec
7
6:45 PM18:45

DECEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Predicate Form: Using Artifact Shapes to Reconstruct Social Interaction, David Thulman, PhD, George Washington University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

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Artifact shapes have long been used speculate about cultural connections in prehistoric archaeology. Here I use sophisticated shape analyses to reconstruct regional point evolution trajectories from predicate forms to reveal the network of social relations throughout the Southeastern United States in the late Paleoindian and Early Archaic periods (about 12,000 – 10,000 years ago). The work reveals a rapid dissemination of information throughout much of the Southeast at the start of the Early Archaic that fostered the local idiosyncratic adoption of notching as the preferred hafting technique. This process appears to have duplicated earlier information dissemination through the region hafting techniques and their local adoption throughout the region.

This method of artifact shape analysis and theories of how information is transmitted among groups of people are changing the way we can understand the deep past and provide an enriched view of how people lived at that time.

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David Thulman is from Washington, DC, where he spent his formative years in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum dreaming of becoming a paleontologist or anthropologist studying human evolution. He received an anthropology degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 but took a detour to the George Washington University Law School, where he graduated in 1982 with a concentration in environmental law.

 Dave spent over 20 years with the Florida environmental departments litigating environmental violations. In 1995, he volunteered on an underwater archaeology site near Tallahassee and was hooked when it was clear that hanging out with archaeologists and graduate students was so much more fun than dealing with lawyers.

 He went to graduate school at Florida State University and received his PhD in 2006, moved back to the DC area and has been teaching at George Washington University since 2007. He does occasional fieldwork in Florida but mostly museum- and private collections-based research. Although he has published on various topics, his most recent is on radiocarbon dating and reconstructing prehistoric social organization from patterns of artifact shape variation.

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Nov
2
6:45 PM18:45

NOVEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Cajamarca Iconography: Anthropomorphic and Zoomorphic Figures from Ancient Peru, Jeanette Nicewinter, PhD, American University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

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The intricately painted iconography of the Cajamarca culture depicts human and animal figures in conjunction with geometric patterns. This horror vacui, or fear of empty space painting style has earned the Cajamarca culture a designation as anomalous within the aesthetic styles of the Central Andes. However, the iconography on Cajamarca fineware plates, bowls, and spoons depicts well-known Andean images. An identification and interpretation of these figures leads to a greater understanding of the Cajamarca culture within the sociocultural context of the Middle Horizon.

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Jeanette Nicewinter is a specialist in Andean art with a focus on the Cajamarca culture of the north highlands. Her research addresses the ceramic forms and iconography of the Cajamarca culture with regard to the expression of social and cultural identity. Her dissertation, Cajamarca Ceramic Spoons from Northern Peru: Forming a Symbolic Function, analyzed the distribution of small-scale ceramic spoons from the Cajamarca and Wari cultures as a form of cultural and aesthetic overlap. She currently teaches Art History at American University and Northern Virginia Community College.

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Sep
7
6:45 PM18:45

SEPTEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Stingless Honeybees during the Postclassic-Colonial Transition of the Maya Lowlands, Geoffrey Wallace, PhD Candidate at McGill University, Montreal, Canada

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

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The relationship between humans and stingless honeybees in the northern Maya Lowlands underwent significant changes after Europeans conquered and settled in the northwest corner of the Yucatán Peninsula. Before the colonial era the bees’ honey was prized as a sweetener or as a base for alcoholic beverages, and it was traded in large quantities on that basis. As Mesoamerica was integrated into the global silver trade, however, the bees’ wax became a much more important commodity than their honey. In this talk I explore how Mayas kept and used the animals immediately prior to European arrival and how they were integrated into the Postclassic Mesoamerican economy. I then turn to the upheaval of conquest and to the cultural and economic forces that made beeswax a tremendously valuable commodity. I use colonial-era archival documentation from 1540 to 1700 to examine the industry from a variety of perspectives. At the broadest levels, I provide digital maps of the geographical distribution of wax harvesting and how its footprint was spread across the Yucatecan landscape. I conclude with some more detailed perspectives of individual Mayas participating in beeswax extraction whose voices were preserved in the archival records.

While scholarly attention to this subject has been cursory, what little has been written suggests that the beeswax industry was simply a colonial intensification of postclassic beekeeping. Instead, I argue that the beeswax industry in colonial Yucatán was so far removed from pre-colonial forms of beekeeping and bee-derived commodity exchange that it should be considered as a completely new phenomenon in the region. Although it was still entirely indigenous bees being harvested by indigenous peoples, the product, means, process, and economics of extraction were unrecognizable from centuries prior, and this dramatic shift in human-bee relationships had dramatic implications for the daily lives of both bees and people in the northern Maya Lowlands.

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Geoff Wallace is a PhD candidate in History at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He is a specialist in digital mapping and in the integration of geographical information systems into historical research. His dissertation is titled The Living Rock: Mapping Landscapes in Colonial Yucatán. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University, where he is working on a project to digitally map the colonial geography of the Yucatán Peninsula.

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Aug
3
6:45 PM18:45

AUGUST MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Living Color: Tonalli in Nahua Featherwork Production by Allison Caplan, Ittelson Fellow at CASVA and PhD Candidate at Tulane University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Coyote Shield. Feathers, gold, cotton, leather, pigments, reeds. Early 16th c. 34.5 cm (radius). Acc. no. 43,380. Weltmuseum, Vienna

Coyote Shield. Feathers, gold, cotton, leather, pigments, reeds. Early 16th c. 34.5 cm (radius). Acc. no. 43,380. Weltmuseum, Vienna

Previous studies have suggested that Late Postclassic and early colonial Nahua viewers experienced specific artistic creations as animate, particularly in ritual contexts. This talk advances our understanding of Nahua featherworks’ animacy by examining producers’ responsiveness in their production practices to particular feathers’ containment of tonalli, a solar-derived animating force or soul. I first examine an aesthetic and value-laden distinction in the sixteenth-century Florentine Codex between tlazoh (beloved) and macehual (commoner) feathers. This distinction registers feathers’ differential ability to contain tonalli, which made tlazoh feathers living beings and macehual feathers inanimate materials. Nahuatl writings on the various stages of production—bird-hunting, dyeing and selling feathers, and mosaic construction—call attention to feathers’ relative and precarious animacy. I argue that producers’ care to preserve specific feathers’ tonalli represented a major artistic and commercial concern that ultimately enabled finished featherworks’ displays of animacy.

 

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Allison Caplan is the Ittleson Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts and a Ph.D. candidate in Art History and Latin American Studies at Tulane University. Her dissertation, “Their Flickering Creations: Value, Appearance, and Surface in Nahua Precious Art,” examines Nahua aesthetics and conceptions of materiality in multimedia works that combine feathers, precious stones, shell, metals, and other valued materials. Allison received her M.A. in Art History and Latin American Studies from Tulane in 2014 and graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University in 2011 with a B.A. in Comparative Literature and Society and a minor in Art History. Allison has organized conference sessions on human-bird interactions in the Americas and on indigenous concepts of value for the American Society for Ethnohistory and is currently organizing a session on indigenous languages and the language of Art History for the College Art Association. She has held internships at the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Getty Research Institute, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. In the fall, Allison will join the Met’s Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas as the Sylvan C. Coleman and Pam Coleman Memorial Fund Post-Doctoral Fellow for 2018–2019.

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Jul
6
6:45 PM18:45

JULY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Fiery Mountains and Flaming Gods: Volcanoes in Ancient Mesoamerican Belief by Lucia R. Henderson, PhD 

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

This talk explores the impact of volcanic landscapes on the art and religious beliefs of ancient Mesoamerican cultures. Capped with lightning storms, puffing smoke, and regularly erupting in fire and ash, volcanoes would have been viewed as some of the most dramatic and imposing inhabitants of the Pre-Columbian living landscape. More cataclysmic eruptions periodically destroyed regions, displaced populations, devastated agricultural production, and interrupted trade routes. This talk will discuss a broad swath of imagery related to volcanoes, from Central Mexico to the Tuxtla Mountains of Veracruz, through the Guatemalan highlands and South Coast, and into western El Salvador. We will explore the idea that these volcanic zones created interconnected ideologies, or “Communities of Landscape,” a phenomenon that was expressed through a remarkably consistent set of iconographic features that spanned vast geographies and lasted through the course of millennia.

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Lucia Henderson is a specialist in the early art of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and a trained archaeological illustrator. Lucia’s scholarly work encompasses wide-ranging subjects, including sculptural iconography, cave art, hydraulic systems, volcanoes, pilgrimage, Teotihuacan-style art, and the ideology and symbolism of emergent authority. Her published work covers two millennia, from the 8th century BC through the 16th century AD, and covers cultures as diverse as the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Hopi of the American Southwest. She has held fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and most recently worked as a Curatorial Consultant for the Dumbarton Oaks Museum. She is currently an independent scholar, living in Washington, D.C.

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Jun
1
6:45 PM18:45

JUNE MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Life and Death in an Andean River: The Making of Ancestors on a Lambayeque Vessel by Andrew Hamilton, PhD, Princeton University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

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One of the most iconographically rich objects in all of Pre-Columbian Andean art is a repoussé-chased silver vessel from the Lambayeque culture. The beaker is covered in dense scenes that shed light on the complex worldviews of people living on the north coast of Peru during the 1300s. But, since the cup first entered the collection of the Denver Art Museum, it has likely been incorrectly assembled. How should the pieces actually fit together? And, how does this new configuration reshape our understanding of the cup’s narrative? This masterpiece of Andean silverwork was featured in the landmark exhibition Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

 

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Andrew Hamilton is a scholar of the art and architecture of the ancient and colonial Americas, specializing in the Andes. His work is invested in analyzing objects, how they were made, used, and eventually disused, in order to understand why they were created and what cultural meanings they bore. He is a practicing artist and frequently illustrates his own publications. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and has recently been awarded a Getty/ACLS Fellowship in the History of Art for the 2018-2019 academic year.

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MAY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
May
4
6:45 PM18:45

MAY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Tracing the Moche Spectacles of Death: Performance, Corporeality, and Political Power in Ancient Peru. A View from Huaca La Capilla, San Jose de Moro (AD 650-850) by Luis Muro Ynoñán, PhD candidate, Stanford University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

This talk explores the relationships between death, rituals, and political power in pre-modern states. It investigates the large-scale funerary performances orchestrated by the ancient Moche who thrived in the desert coast of northern Peru from the 2nd to the 9th centuries AD. While Moche elite vessels depict lavish funerary performances involving large audiences, coffins being paraded, and individuals impersonating Moche deities, the physical locations where these performances took place have not been archaeologically documented. Huaca La Capilla is a monumental structure located within the Moche elite cemetery of San José de Moro. Based on long-term archaeological excavations there, it is suggested that Huaca La Capilla constituted the locus of these performances: the sacred space where the corpses of the elite individuals were physically and symbolically prepared for their journey to the afterlife. Moreover, it is argued that the spectacularity of these performances had a significant impact not only on the religious life of the ancient Moche, but also, and very critically, on the socio-political organization of this pristine state of the Andes.

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Luis Muro Ynoñán is a PhD Candidate in Archaeology at Stanford University and a Junior Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. He holds a Bachelor and Licenciatura in Archaeology from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Luis has been the director of the San José de Moro Archaeological Program from 2014 to 2017. He has also directed archaeological investigations in various sites in Peru, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of “The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca”. In parallel to his dissertation research, Luis has conducted ethnographic investigations in northern Peru exploring the disjunctions between the rhetoric of heritage conservation, the recognition of local populations, and human rights. He is currently a member of The Peruvian Committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS-Peru) and an associate member of The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) project (Simon Fraser University, Canada.

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Apr
6
6:45 PM18:45

APRIL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Sican City: Urban Organization on the North Coast of Peru by Gabriela Cervantes, PhD candidate, University of Pittsburgh.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Cities that are capitals of large states provide unique information on the sociopolitical political organization and the nature of power and rulership, as they are home to a society’s leaders and central institutions. A capital city may be dominated by a centralized single governing institution, or may contain several, suggesting a more segmented form of rulership. This presentation will discuss recent work showing that the capital of the Sican State (800-1375 AD) on the North Coast of Peru presents a dispersed urban pattern with several nuclei. The city has a monumental core for political-religious activities and a dispersed urban pattern with several public and residential architecture complexes. 

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Gabriela Cervantes is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and a Junior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks. She is a Peruvian Archaeologist with a BA and a Licenciatura from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. Her research focuses on ancient cities and urban layout, as well as the daily life of city residents and their social and economic organization. Her investigation takes place in the Pre-Columbian city of Sican, Peru where she conducted archaeological survey and mapping of the monumental and domestic architecture of the city. The urban layout resembles a garden city previously studied in the Maya area and in Southeast Asia, but never found in South America. Her research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. She has been engaged in public outreach, as a committee member of an online journal and translating three archaeology books from English to Spanish.

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Mar
2
6:45 PM18:45

MARCH MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Context of Hieroglyphic Monuments at the Later Classic Maya Court of La Corona by Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire, PhD candidate, Tulane University.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    TONIGHT'S MEETING WILL BE HELD AS PLANNED. THE SUMNER SCHOOL IS OPEN.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm

The study of Classic Maya civilization is now historical archaeology. Ideologically-rich texts from media such as carved monuments and painted vases contain fascinating data that have become crucial in broadening our understanding of the Classic Maya. Yet, the study of the content of texts consistently takes precedence over the study of their context. Reading these ideological texts at face value can easily lead to biased views of Classic Maya society and political history. By critically analyzing context, we may better understand the political roles of textual artifacts, or the motivations behind their use and display.

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This paper adopts an archaeological perspective to several hieroglyphic monuments found in distinct contexts in the regal palace of La Corona, Guatemala. Some monuments were found in situ inside prominent buildings, others in the backrest of exterior benches, while others came from a looted hieroglyphic staircase. Interestingly, this assemblage of hieroglyphic monuments – all displayed contemporaneously – was comprised of pieces crafted centuries apart. The resulting dialogue between archaeological and epigraphic data addresses changing strategies of royal sovereignty, shifts in political regimes, and the collapse of Classic Maya divine kingship.

Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire currently is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Tulane University and a Junior Research Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks. His dissertation research focuses on the political institution of the Classic Maya royal court. Mr. Lamoureux-St-Hilaire investigates this topic by excavating the regal palace of La Corona in Guatemala and by researching the comparative literature. He has excavated and surveyed in Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Honduras, and Québec, Canada.

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FEBRUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Feb
2
6:45 PM18:45

FEBRUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Tlaloc, Sotuknangu, and the Origins of the Gods in Ancient Americ: The Case of Barrier Canyon Rock Art by by James Farmer, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm

Rock art imagery constitutes one of the oldest and most widespread forms of artistic expression in human history, including the Ancient Americas. Yet Precolumbian art historical scholarship has routinely marginalized or separated critical consideration of rock art from so-called mainstream art historical analysis. In 1971, Polly Schaafsma defined the Barrier Canyon Anthropomorphic Style (aka. BCS) of painted or pictographic rock art images as one of the more significant styles of early Ancient American painting, centered in the modern American Southwest. Schaafsma based her initial study on only 19 documented BCS style sites, but in 1992, the BCS Project was initiated to locate and record additional BCS style rock art sites throughout the region. As of 2016, over 400 additional BCS sites have been recorded. This vastly expanded catalog of images now permits more critically focused analysis of the BCS style, including understanding the creation of early rock art imagery within a broader context of early Mesoamerican and Ancient Puebloan ideologies. Through the presentation of a number of related BCS compositions, and in consideration of historic Puebloan ethnographic sources, I argue that early, painted BCS rock art imagery presents the iconographic origins of a complex of gods and beliefs associated with later Puebloan creator gods (Hopi Sotuknangu) and Mesoamerican rain god equivalents (Aztec Tlaloc).

James Farmer joined the department of anthropology faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992. His general areas of specialization include Precolumbian and North American Indian art, with secondary interests in modern and contemporary Native and Latin American art. His specific research interests are divided between the ancient Archaic and Puebloan traditions of the American Southwest and the middle Formative and Late Horizon traditions of Ecuador and Peru. He has participated in archeological excavations in Colorado and Ecuador, and has conducted study abroad classes in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and the Southwest. He has chaired numerous conference sessions at the College Art Association and Southeastern College Art Conferences, and presented numerous papers and lectures nationwide and in Latin America on a variety of Precolumbian-related topics. He has served as a guest curator, collection consultant and exhibition catalog contributor to several major museums, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Chrysler Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Dr. Farmer’s publications span a wide range of issues and subjects related to ancient American art and architecture, such as astronomy and women’s rituals in ancient Puebloan architectural design, symbolism in Maya textiles, early painting in rock art from the American Southwest, and early Andean ceramics and sculpture in highland Ecuador. His most recent publication is a co-authored book just released by University of Texas Press entitled Art and Archaeology of Challuabamba, Ecuador. ”My approach to Precolumbian art history stresses both the deep antiquity of technically complex and artistically sophisticated ancient American styles, as well as the nature of long range influence and interaction between the major traditions and styles”. He holds a BFA in studio art and a PhD in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin.

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JANUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Jan
5
6:45 PM18:45

JANUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Evolutionary Genomic Dynamics of Peruvians Before, During, and After the Inca Empire by Daniel Harris, PhD candidate, Graduate Program in Molecular Medicine, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm

The Andean region of Peru experienced a dynamic pre-Columbian history which culminated with the Inca Empire. Following the Inca, Spanish conquerors ruled Peru for nearly 300 years until Peruvian Independence (1821). The Spanish and early Native American empires greatly impacted modern Peruvian demography and recently genomics provided further insights to these processes.

In this research project, 150 genomes from Native and mestizo populations in Peru were sequenced and an additional 130 were genotyped. The majority of these samples possessed greater than 90% Native American ancestry. Demographic modeling indicates these populations diverged early in Peruvian history, supporting the hypothesis that the New World was peopled rapidly.

Following the initial peopling, Native American populations remained relatively isolated while mestizo populations have evidence of admixture between multiple Native American populations in addition to their Old World admixture. During the Inca Empire, the center of genetic relatedness was based in the Andes but shifted toward toward the coast during Spanish rule.  The majority of migration in Peru was in descent of the Andes towards the Amazon and coast. evidence of the Inca and other Andean Empires’ influence on Peru and/or reflective of negative selection pressures on new migrants to the high altitude environment in the Andes

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Daniel Harris is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Molecular Medicine Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Dr. Timothy O’Connor’s lab at the Institute for Genome Sciences. The major goal of his research is to apply evolutionary biology and population genetics theory to the study human history, specifically, the peopling of geographic regions and human migration/admixture patterns.

He also studies human history through ancient DNA analysis, which includes the archaic hominins, Neanderthals and Denisovans, as well as more recent anatomically modern human samples. In addition to human history, and the application of Precision Medicine to populations worldwide. He focuses on genetically understudied populations, such as Native Americans, but also works with the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine Program (TOPMed), which consists of the largest sequenced human data set to date.

Mr. Harris has presented his work at the American Society for Human Genetics, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, and the Evolutionary Demography Society. In addition, he presented at the first Annual Molecular Medicine Research Retreat where he won the award for best oral presentation, 

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DECEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Dec
1
6:45 PM18:45

DECEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Complex Connections: A Reexamination of Early Horizon Interaction from the Ceremonial Center of Atalla, Huancavelica, Peru by Michelle Young, PhD candidate, Yale University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

This presentation will offer results from three seasons of investigations at the virtually unknown site of Atalla, located in the remote highlands of Huancavelica, Peru. Boasting monumental temple construction, a village-sized settlement, and personal adornments used in social differentiation, the site offers the earliest evidence for incipient social complexity in the region of Huancavelica. Past research has understood Atalla’s development through a core-periphery approach, positing that the formation of Atalla was stimulated by interaction with Chavín de Huántar in the Early Horizon (800-200 B.C.). Recent investigations at Atalla have revised our previous understanding of its occupational history, verifying a local domestic occupation, monumental construction, and long-distance interaction in the late Initial Period (1000-800BC). This talk will present evidence for the economic, sociopolitical, cultural, and religious transformations involved in the foundation and development of Atalla. This research underscores the importance of characterizing late Initial Period developments in the Peruvian highlands in order to properly contextualize subsequent patterns observed in the Early Horizon.

Michelle E. Young is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University in the department of Anthropology. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 2009 with a double major in the History of Art and Anthropology. She has conducted archaeological field and lab work in the United States, Belize, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Madagascar and has held internships at the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru, and at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. Since 2014, she has directed the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica Atalla, a collaborative research project that carried out mapping, survey, excavation, sample collection, and laboratory analysis of materials in tandem with a program of community outreach and education. Her dissertation project aims to understand the relationship between long-distance interaction and the emergence of new forms of social behavior in the early first millennium BC at the site of Atalla, located in the remote highlands of Huancavelica, Peru. Her research has been supported by generous funding from Yale University, the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, and the Rust Family Foundation

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NOVEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Nov
3
6:45 PM18:45

NOVEMBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Unravelling the Wari World: Colored Cords, Patterned Wrapping, and Knots Probably Helped Manage South America’s First Empire by Jeffrey Splistoser, PhD, George Washington University

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

The Wari created the first South American empire, ca. 600–1000 CE, and they ran it with an incredible invention: the khipu. Wari khipus are devices made of wrapped and knotted cords that were used to store and record information we presume was vital to administer their state. Like their later, more famous, Inka counterparts, Wari-style khipus likely carried and conveyed information using color and knots. Wari khipus differ from Inka khipus, however, in many respects including their use of colorful wrapping. Beginning with an overview of the Wari and their empire, this richly illustrated talk will present findings from Splitstoser’s recent study of the Wari khipu corpus, which consists of some 40 specimens that are changing our understanding of how the Wari ran their empire.
 

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Dr. Jeffrey C. Splitstoser is an Assistant Research Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. He is currently the textile and khipus specialist for the El Castillo de Huarmey Archaeological Project, where he is studying a group of the textiles and khipus recently excavated from a Wari royal mausoleum (see the June 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine). Splitstoser is also the textile specialist for the Huaca Prieta Archaeological Project, directed by Dr. Tom Dillehay, where he studied 6,200 year old cotton textiles that are colored with the world’s earliest known use of indigo. Splitstoser is the Vice President of the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center and the editor (with Dr. David Stuart) of its peer-reviewed journals, Ancient America and the Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing. He is a research associate of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, and a Cosmos Club scholar. Splitstoser was a Junior Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks (2005‒2006). He received his Master’s degree (1999) and Ph.D. (2009) in anthropology from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. His dissertation is a study of the Early Paracas textiles from Cerrillos in the Ica Valley of Peru.
 

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OCTOBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Oct
13
6:45 PM18:45

OCTOBER MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Incidence of Travel: Recent Journeys in Ancient South America by Jerry D. Moore, PhD, California State University Dominguez Hills.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Archaeological literature originates with travel narratives—accounts by natural historians and engaged travelers—but today narrative is largely absent in the articles, reports, and monographs we archaeologists produce. In my new book, I argue that there is room within our scholarship for the reincorporation of narrative, particularly as a manner of engaging with a broader reading audience. During my research on cultural landscapes in South America, the intersection of my journeys and my archaeological studies of sites has profoundly deepened my understanding of how spaces become meaningful places. To illustrate this, I will discuss my 2015 journey to the Fiesta of Qollyur R’iti in the southern Peruvian Andes and its implications for understanding dynamics of sacred space in archaeological sites.

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Jerry D. Moore, PhD, is professor of anthropology at California State University Dominguez Hills. His research focuses on the archaeology of cultural landscapes in Peru and Baja California. His archaeological fieldwork has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Center for Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, and other agencies and foundations. Currently Moore is a fellow in pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, where he previously was a fellow in 1992-93. He has also held fellowships at the Sainsbury Centre for the Arts, University of East Anglia (1994), the Getty Research Institute (2001-2002), and the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University (2013). He is currently editor of Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology. His books include Architecture and Power in the Prehispanic Andes: The Archaeology of Public Buildings (1996, Cambridge), Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (2012, Rowman and Littlefield,4th edition),  Cultural Landscapes in the Prehispanic Andes: Archaeologies of Place (2005, Florida), The Prehistory of Home (2012, California; 2014 Society for American Archaeology Book Award), A Prehistory of South America: Ancient Cultural Diversity of the Least Known Continent (2014, Colorado), Incidence of Travel: Recent Journeys in Ancient South America (2017, Colorado), in addition to articles, book chapters, and reviews.

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AUGUST MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Aug
4
6:45 PM18:45

AUGUST MEMBERSHIP MEETING

The Fall of the Aztecs: Uncovering the True Story by Matthew Restall, PhD, Pennsylvania State University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

For an empire that existed half a millennium ago, and whose written records were almost entirely destroyed, we have a remarkably clear sense of what brought the Aztecs down.  We assume the Aztec Empire was doomed from the start, because theirs was a doom-and-gloom culture.  But what if we have it all wrong?  What if Aztec civilization was not defined by a fatalistic obsession with human sacrifice?  What if we have been misled by conquistador propaganda for five centuries — lulled by the narcotic of a ripping good yarn?  Drawing from his forthcoming new book, When Montezuma Met Cortés, Professor Matthew Restall argues that to better understand the fall of the Aztecs and Spain’s conquistadors, we must view Aztec culture, the empire, and the emperor, very differently.

Matthew Restall was born and educated in England, but lived in Spain and Latin America as a child, developing a lasting fascination with Pre-Columbian and Spanish American history.  He is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Anthroplogy, and Director of Latin American Studies, at the Pennsylvania State University, and the author of some twenty books on topics such as Maya Conquistador and Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest.  This summer and fall he is a Kislak Fellow at the Library of Congress’s Kluge Center and a Capitol Fellow at the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

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JULY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Jul
7
6:45 PM18:45

JULY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Evaluating Maya Expansionary and Integrative Strategies: What Can Be Learned from the Copan Polity's Interactions with its Non-Maya Neighbors by Erlend Johnson, PhD candidate, Tulane University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Scholarship on the ancient lowland Maya has tended to develop black-box models describing the Classic period "polity". This presentation attempts to open up this black-box in order investigate the dynamic processes by which lowland Maya polities functioned. It focuses on one aspect of Maya statecraft: the integrative strategies employed by Maya rulers as they expanded their polities. The Classic period Maya polity of Copan provides an ideal place to study these processes because of its position at the edge of the Maya world. The Copan polity was surrounded by non-Maya neighbors with distinct cultures and political structures; evidence for both material links and structural transformations instigated by the Copan polity are more visible there than at contemporary sites in the Maya heartland. This presentation examines both the timing and degree of political changes during the Classic period (AD 100-900) in the Cucuyagua and Sensenti valleys located 25km and 50km southeast of Copan, respectively.  Results from survey and excavation data suggest that a Maya lowland style political hierarchy was adopted in the Cucuyagua valley by the Late Classic period (AD 600-900), suggesting that it was integrated into the Copan polity. Evidence of a fragmentary, heterarchical political system in the Sensenti valley during the Late Classic period suggests that this area remained outside of Copan’s political hegemony. 

Erlend Johnson is a doctoral candidate at Tulane University and is affiliated with the Mesoamerican Research Institute. Erlend’s research, which is directed by Marcello Canuto, focuses on the integrative strategies employed by the rulers of Maya polities as they expanded into and absorbed surrounding populations. Research for his dissertation has occurred in the Cucuyagua and Sensenti valleys located southeast of the Classic Maya polity of Copan. Erlend has participated in research projects in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Louisiana in addition to current and past research in Honduras.  He received an Mphil in Archaeology at the University of Leiden in 2009 and his BA at Kenyon College in 2007. Erlend is a Summer Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.

 

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GEORGE E. STUART LECTURE AND ANNUAL MEETING
Jun
2
6:30 PM18:30

GEORGE E. STUART LECTURE AND ANNUAL MEETING

To Bee or Not to Bee: Exploring the Maya Literary Tradition from the Perspective of the George E. Stuart Collection by Gabrielle Vail, PhD

This meeting will be held in the Hurlbut Memorial Hall on the 3rd Floor of the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The format is:        6:30 pm   Refreshments

                              7:10 pm    Annual meeting & lecture

                              8:20 pm    Dessert, wine and cheese

Maya screenfold books, or codices, offer a fascinating glimpse of the daily life, rituals, and beliefs of prehispanic Maya cultures in the centuries leading up to the Spanish conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula in the early 16th century. Of special interest are almanacs focusing on the ceremonies and activities associated with beekeeping with the stingless bee native to Mexico; astronomical tables that integrate events from primordial time with those from the time period when they were written; and depictions of ceremonies inaugurating the new year. Using facsimiles and documents from the George E. Stuart collection (currently housed at UNC-Chapel Hill), this presentation brings the pre-Columbian past of the Yucatán Peninsula to life and explores the relevance of the almanacs and texts recorded in the screenfold manuscripts to the Yucatec Maya living there today.  

Our speaker Gabrielle Vail received her PhD in anthropology from Tulane University, with a specialization in Maya archaeology.  Her research emphasizes prehispanic Maya ritual and religion, as well as calendrical and astronomical texts, as documented in the Maya screenfold codices.  Her work is highlighted in over sixty publications, as well as the online Maya Codices Database (www.mayacodices.org), a collaborative project undertaken with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Her publications include Códice de Madrid (Universidad Mesoamericana, 2013), Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Postclassic Maya Codices with Christine Hernández (University Press of Colorado, 2013), and a chapter in Cosmology, Calendars, and Horizon-Based Astronomy in Ancient Mesoamerica (University of Colorado Press, 2015).  Dr. Vail is Program Director for InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed and Present, based in the Research Labs of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Anthropology. Her most recent project involved coordinating an exchange trip between high school students of Maya descent in western North Carolina and Yucatec Maya students at the Universidad de Oriente in Valladolid, Mexico.

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MAY MONTHLY MEETING
May
5
6:45 PM18:45

MAY MONTHLY MEETING

Talking Trash: Refuse and Ritual in Maya Archaeology by Sarah Newman, PhD, James Madison University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

Archaeology is often describe (by archaeologists themselves) as "the discipline that tries to understand garbage." In this talk, Dr. Newman turns this perspective on its head. She explores how objects that have long been assumed to be simply ancient trash--broken pots, bone fragments, worn-out tools, crafting debris--may have held different meanings in the past. Drawing on evidence from archaeological artifacts, historic documents, and ethnographic observations in Mesoamerica, Dr. Newman shows how extending the modern concepts of rubbish to the past is not only anachronistic but actively limiting to our capacity for understanding of archaeological assemblages.

Sarah Newman received her BA at Yale University (2007) , her PhD from Brown University (2015), and is currently Assistant Professor of Archaeology at James Madison University. She has conducted archaeological and zooarchaeological research in Mesoamerica since 2006, with a current field project at the site of Topoxte, Guatemala, and is a co-author of Temple of the Nigh Sun: A Royal Tomb at El Diablo (2015). Her work has been supported by several grants and fellowships, including the US Department of State Fulbright Program, the National Science Foundation, the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, and most recently, a 2017-2018 Richard Carley Hunt Fellowhsip from the Wenner-Gren Foundation to support the writing of her manuscript book..

 

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APRIL MONTHLY MEETING
Apr
7
6:45 PM18:45

APRIL MONTHLY MEETING

History and Histories of the Popol Wuj: A Reappraisal of the Origin and Purpose of a Mesoamerican Literary Masterpiece by Frauke Sachse, PhD

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm. 

The Popol Wuj is widely acknowledged to be the most significant colonial document that was ever written in a Mayan language. The text describes the creation mythology and origin of the K'iche' people and can be regarded pivotal for our understanding of Prehispanic religious traditions and the perception of history. This talk will explore the Precolumbian origin of the Popol Wuj, analyzing Classic Maya antecedents as well as Central Mexican narrative traditions, and will suggest that the document as we know it today was composed in response to Christianization. Our speaker will discuss the impact of missionary evangelization in sixteenth-century Highland Guatemala and show that the text is a literary masterpiece of written indigenous resistance.

Frauke Sachse is Assistant Professor of Precolumbian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Bonn. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University and a MA degree in Anthropology/Precolumbian Studies, Archaeology and English from the University of Bonn. Her research interests concern the languages, linguistics, and ethnohistory of Mesoamerica, with a current focus on aspects of translation and the understanding of cultural concepts in indigenous as well as doctrinal sources from Highland Guatemala. She has authored, co-authored, and edited several volumes including Reconstructive Description of Eighteenth-Century Xinka Grammar (2010), Maya Daykeeping (with John M. Weeks and Christian Prager, 2009), and Maya Ethnicity: The Construction of Ethnic Identity from Preclassic to Modern Times (2006). She has held fellowships at the Library of Congress (2016-17) and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library (2012-13) in Washington as well as at the Princeton University Library (2007), and received research support from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD, and the Deutsche Altamerika Stiftung. Between 2005-2016, she was president of the European Association of Mayanists (WAYEB).

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MARCH MONTHLY MEETING
Mar
3
6:45 PM18:45

MARCH MONTHLY MEETING

Transformation by Fire: Mexica Funerary Cremation Rituals by Ximena Chavez-Balderas, PhD Candidate, Tulane University.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan was the final resting place for certain elite individuals. Their bodies were cremated and their remains were deposited in urns. The archaeological excavations of the Templo Mayor Project recovered seven urns containing cremated bones from five individuals, along with numerous burial goods. These findings revealed that funerary rituals were more complex than what the historical sources described, depending on the identity, social status, and cause of death of the deceased, as well as body symbolism. In this talk, Chavez Balderas will explore these findings; present the different types of cremation rituals and activity areas associated with the practice; discuss the meaning of fire as a transforming element; address the symbolism of bones; and note the possible use of cremated remains as relics for consecrating ritual space. In addition, she will discuss the symbolism and the extraordinary diversity of associated funerary goods.

Ximena Chavez Balderas is a bioarchaeologist with the Templo Mayor Project. She specializes in funerary archaeology, sacrificial practices, mortuary treatments, and archaeozoology. She earned her BA from the Escuela Nacional de Antropolgia e Historia. Her MPhil was awarded by the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and her MA is from Tulane University. She was the primary curator of the Templo Mayor Museum between 2001 an 2007. She has received three INAH national awards, has presented more that 50 lectures and papers, and has published thirty-plus articles. Currently, she is a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellow.

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FEBRUARY MONTHLY MEETING
Feb
3
6:45 PM18:45

FEBRUARY MONTHLY MEETING

Recent Advances in Cultural Astronomy in the Broader Southwest by Ray F. Williamson, PhD

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.   

The study of cultural astronomy in the Southwest U.S. has had a mixed reception among SW archaeologists, especially archaeoastronomy, the element of the field that deals with archaeological remains. Over the past decade or so, the archaeology community has become more receptive to some of the results of cultural astronomy and a few archaeologists have begun to see it as a useful tool in the effort to understand the lives of the peoples who left us so many puzzling southwestern architectural structures. This talk reviews some of the more interesting and exciting recent research in cultural astronomy and its connections to modern archaeological research, especially the persistent questions of how and why the Ancient Puebloans left the northern Southwest and where the different groups ended up. It also examines the question of putative prehstoric lunar observations and their possible manifestations in archaeological remain. 

Ray A. Williamson is retired from Secure World Foundation, where he served as Executive Director between 2007 and 2012 and as Senior Advisor until 2014. Previously, he was Research Professor of Space Policy and International Affairs in the Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University. From 1979 to 1995, he served first as Senior Analyst and later as Senior Associate for the U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). Prior to employment with OTA. Dr. Williamson was Assistant Dean at St. Joan's College, Annapolis, MD. Dr. Williamson is a Board Member of the Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest and Willowtail.org, an organization promoting the development of the arts in the Four Corners region. He is the author or editor of ten books on space policy, historic preservation, and the astronomical knowledge and ritual of the American Indian. is books include: Living the Sky: The Cosmos of the American Indian; They Dance in the Sky (with Jean Guard Monroe); and Cowboys and Cave Dwellers (with Fred. M. Blackburn).

Dr. Williamson received his BA in physics from the John Hopkins University and his PhD in astronomy from the University of Maryland..

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JANUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Jan
6
6:45 PM18:45

JANUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Expansion of the Aztec Empire and Changes to Visual Representations of Religious Imagery in the Basin of Mexico by Angel Gonzalez-Lopez, PhD Candidate, University of California, Riverside.

This meeting will be held at the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.

This talk explores how the expansion of the Aztec Empire caused changes to the visual representation of religious imagery associated with a new political power. By collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the symbolic narratives carved on stone in the Basin of Mexico, during the Postclassic period (1300-1521 AD), our speaker attempts to understand the nature of the interactions between several city-states in the Basin of Mexico and the imperial capitals of Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco and Tlacopan. The evidence for this research is the volcanic stone, andesite and basalt blocks that were transformed into reliefs and three-dimensional sculptures, in both monumental and portable formats. His project addresses the main question of identifying and discussing whether or not several small groups of elites, or social agents, associated with specific political institutions, promoted the practice of sculpting stone. Did a few individuals with a particular set of ideological and symbolic narratives recruited and trained personnel with special skills, such as sculptors, into specific institutional roles? The talk will address production activities, the political organization, circulation, and consumption of sculpted stones; as well as the group of people involved in making them, the set of sponsors, artists present in workshops, places of display, and their audiences. The talk will draw on different lines of evidence such as archaeological contexts, ethnohistory, and the discourses depicted in the stone images.

Angel Gonzalez-Lopez is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, specializing in Aztec iconography. For 10 years prior to beginning his graduate studies, Gonzalez was a member of the Proyecto Templo Mayor and was involved in the ongoing excavations of the Aztec Main Temple of Tenochtitlan in Mexico City. His research focuses on Postclassic Central Mexico, although he also has worked at Teotihuacan, Cuicuilco, Cholula, the Sierra de las Navajas in Hidalgo, the Sierra Gorda in Queretaro, the central valleys of Oaxaca, and southern Quintana Roo. His most recent book is Imagenes Sagradas: Iconografia en Esculturas de Piedra del Recinto Sagrado de Tenochtitlan y el Museo Etnografico published by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia (INAH) Press.

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