Art Histories Seminar
Do 03 Nov 2016 | 16:00–18:00

Engaging Preclassic Maya Visual Configurations at San Bartolo, Guatemala

Sanja Savkic (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/ Art Histories Fellow 2016/17)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

3rd, 6th, 7th architectural phases, Pyramid of the Paintings, San Bartolo, Guatemala (Image by Massimo Stefani, 2015).
3rd, 6th, 7th architectural phases, Pyramid of the Paintings, San Bartolo, Guatemala (Image by Massimo Stefani, 2015).

This paper aims at providing insights into the possible ways the Late Preclassic (c. 400 BCE – 100 CE) Maya from the ancient city of San Bartolo, Guatemala, interacted with their past by means of materialized forms as means of making contact with ancestors and shaping the past, formulating the connections between past and present. It focuses on the built environment of the so-called Las Pinturas architectural group that has eight substructure-complexes vertically, and each of them presents its own layout in space horizontally. Las Pinturas is probably best known for its mural paintings from c. 100 BCE located in the sixth architectural phase, which at present is the largest visual narrative known for the period, although practically the half of it was intentionally dismantled in the past.

Moreover, a short hieroglyphic text was found in the third phase (c. 300 BCE) and so far is the oldest known sample of the ancient Maya script. Other important aspects it seeks to explore are about the way objects are displayed in space, their visibility, perception and reception, images they portray, and the relation between these images with the objects’ physical forms and materiality; how they may have inspired interaction and movement; how people engaged with them in changed contexts (e.g. new architectural phase with new visual configurations); and how they articulated with the ancient Maya beliefs, mythology, rituals, and power. 

Sanja Savkic received her PhD in Art History (area of Indigenous Art of the Americas), and MSt in Mesoamerican Studies, both from the National Autonomous University in Mexico (UNAM). For her doctoral dissertation she was honored as the most distinguished graduate in art history in 2012 and received the Alfonso Caso medal. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the UNAM’s Institute of Anthropological Research from 2014-16. The cross-disciplinary approach she pursues (art history-anthropology-archaeology) has been fruitful for her ongoing research that has been concerned mainly with the ancient Maya visual culture. She is an Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices 2016/17 fellow at the Berlin based Forum Transregionale Studien.

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