AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
This paper may be of particular interest to:  Practicing and Applied Anthropologists   
Type: Paper
Paper Title: APPROPRIATING ANCIENT MAYA POLITICAL STRATEGY: ARCHAEOLOGY, STELA A AND NATIONAL IDENTITY IN HONDURAS
Author: KRISTIN LANDAU (Northwestern University)   
Date/Time: Sun., 9:15 AM
Co-Author(s): KRISTIN LANDAU (Northwestern University) 
Abstract: Considered sacred monuments throughout the Classic Maya (AD 250-800) region, stelae (stela, singular) are tall stone obelisks, often carved in the image of a king guised as deity and adorned with iconographic motifs and hieroglyphic writing. Stelae in the Great Plaza of the site of Copán, Honduras depict the king in a perpetual state of ritual action, in unending performance of divine rulership and power legitimation. Due to their high-relief carving, archaeologists have long used Copán’s stelae to exemplify the aesthetic height of Classic Maya artistic achievement. However, by considering them in ancient contexts only, archaeologists have overlooked the role stelae play in the representation of Copán for international and national tourism, and their significance for contemporary Hondurans. Stelae today are literally the advertising face of archaeo-tourism brochures, and the proliferation of stela replicas throughout the country has prompted the “mayanization” of a prehistorically multicultural Honduran society. In fact, the last three presidential inaugurations have either taken place at the archaeological park itself or have summoned scenes of Copán’s famous architecture for media backdrop. Because archaeologists’ interpretations of the function of stelae in ancient life are strikingly similar to how they are used today, I discuss how the very form and materiality of the stela may have contributed to such a persistent ideology of power. In so doing, I trace the 1300-year “social life” of Copán’s stelae and argue for a greater awareness of the uses of the Maya past in the Honduran present.

Program Number: 5-0195
Session Title: MAYAN POLITICS AND POWER
Session Sponsor: Archaeology Division
Session Date/Time: Sun., 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Organizer(s): ANNUAL MEETING PROGRAM COMMITTEE (AAA) 
Chair(s): KRISTIN LANDAU (Northwestern University)  
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