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.

Back to All Events

February Membership Meeting


The Original Performance Piece: Shaft Tomb (?) Figures of West Mexico by Christopher Beekman, 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.  

Anthropomorphic ceramic figures have been looted from shaft and chamber tombs in western Mexico for well over a century, and literally thousands of them exist today in museum collections, not to mention those in the hands of private collectors. This has led to a broader interpretation of these figures as “mortuary art,” objects produced with the express intention of accompanying the dead. They have been seen as representations of the deceased, representations of servants accompanying the deceased into the beyond, or representations of the underworld itself. Similar interpretations in the 1960s were made of Maya codex vessels, which were seen. as a Maya “Book of the Dead." 

Recently, however, scholars have noted the evidence of usewear on those figures found in museum collections. Also, fragments and whole figures have been excavated from household and ritual contexts. This lecture will detail those finds and their implications for interpretations of the figures. The shaft tomb figures are interpreted here as mobile art used on multiple occasions before interment with the dead, and many correspond in subject matter to better known forms of storytelling from Mesoamerican art,

Christopher Beekman is an archaeologist who specializes in the prehistory of western Mexico. He has directed excavation and survey projects in the region since 1993 with a focus on the Late Formative and Early Classic periods. His research interests lie primarily in ancient political and social organization. He received his PhD in Anthropology from Vanderbilt University. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, and this year he is a Fellow in Precolumbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. 

Earlier Event: October 2
October Membership Meeting
Later Event: April 1

Copyright Pre-Columbian Society of Washington D.C. All Rights Reserved.