Doors open at 12:30 pm with refreshments. Lecture begins at 1:00 pm.
Speaker: Kat Brown, Associate Professor, UTSA, Anthropology Department
Lecture Title: The Chamber of Secrets at Xunantunich, Belize: Investigating Ancient Maya Sages
Although ancient Maya graffiti has been documented at a number of sites, our understanding of this art form remains limited. New evidence from the ancient Maya site of Xunantunich may shed light on the function of graffiti in certain contexts. Investigations at El Castillo, a 39 meter tall acropolis, uncovered a Late Classic eastern room that was carefully filled with clay and stacked stones. The walls were covered with incised images and designs, ranging from simple sketches (graffiti) to more formal renderings.
In this presentation, we suggest that this room was a special place where an ancient Maya Sage trained apprentices in the arts and sacred knowledge. Lending support to this interpretation, the walls were partitioned into sections and several images were repeated as if the designs were being practiced. This suggests that some plastered walls were not simply structural but also served as canvases for sketching, artistic training, and learned scribal expression. This newly discovered chamber of secrets provides a glimpse into how ancient Maya sacred knowledge was passed on.
M. Kathryn Brown is the Lutcher Brown Endowed Associate Professor in Anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received her Ph.D in Anthropology at Southern Methodist University in 2003. Her research focuses on the rise of complexity in the Maya lowlands and the role of ritual and ceremonial architecture in the Preclassic period. Much of her research examines questions related to the development of divine kingship during the Preclassic and how this institution is continually maintained and legitimized during the Classic period through religion, economy, and warfare. She is currently the director of the Mopan Valley Preclassic Project and co-director of the Mopan Valley Archaeological Project. She has focused her recent investigations at the site of Xunantunich, Belize. She is the coeditor of Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare (with Travis Stanton, 2003) and Pathways to Complexity: A View from the Maya Lowlands (with George J. Bey III, 2018), and she has several recent publications that have appeared in Mexicon, Advances in Archaeological Practice, Latin American Antiquity, and Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology.