An illuminating look at the myriad communities who have engaged with the ancient Maya over the centuries.
This book reveals how the ancient Maya—and their buildings, ideas, objects, and identities—have been perceived, portrayed, and exploited over five hundred years in the Americas, Europe, and beyond.
Engaging in interdisciplinary analysis, the book summarizes ancient Maya art and history from the preclassical period to the Spanish invasion, as well as the history of outside engagement with the ancient Maya, from Spanish invaders in the sixteenth century to later explorers and archaeologists, taking in scientific literature, visual arts, architecture, world’s fairs, and Indigenous activism. It also looks at the decipherment of Maya inscriptions, Maya museum exhibitions and artists’ responses, and contemporary Maya people’s engagements with their ancestral past. Featuring the latest research, this book will interest scholars as well as general readers who wish to know more about this ancient, fascinating culture.
About the Author
Megan E. O’Neil is assistant professor of art history at Emory University. She is the author or coauthor of numerous publications, including Maya Art and Architecture.
“O’Neil, one of the leading art historians of the Maya, has created an essential introduction to this important civilization from deep time to the present. She grounds her new perspective on the role of colonialism and portrayals in popular culture, reframing narratives about the Maya being ‘lost’ and ‘discovered.’” — James Doyle, director of the Matson Museum of Anthropology and associate research professor, Penn State University
"This beautifully illustrated and meticulously researched book is a wholly new, contextual study of the Maya people of Mexico and Central America. It is a groundbreaking study for several reasons. First, it does not end with the fall of the Postclassic Maya in the sixteenth century, but continues to trace Maya culture and society’s continuous evolution through the colonial period and into the present day. Additionally, it presents a richly detailed panorama of the ways that scholarly and popular audiences in Latin America and beyond have sought to collect, display, remix, and decipher the ancient Maya since the nineteenth century. The result is a thought-provoking study of how our understandings of this ancient civilization have evolved dramatically over time, and are still being constructed today." — Ellen Hoobler, William B. Ziff, Jr, Associate Curator of the Art of the Americas, Walters Art Museum
"More than any other introduction to the Maya, O'Neil's book draws together the fascinating story of the emergence and flowering of Maya civilization with the long history of scholarly attempts to reconstruct and understand that civilization. It is written with verve and grace, but also with a profound respect for the Maya alive today and the scholars who came before." — Rex Koontz, professor of art history, University of Houston, consulting curator of the art of the Indigenous Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
"Readable and full of new ideas, this is a powerful—and distinctive—book on the Maya. Engaged at every step with Maya visual culture, this is also a book of history, anthropology, and the Maya today, one that makes strong connections between the artistic efforts of the first millennium CE and life and practice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries." — Mary Miller, director, Getty Research Institute