Stucco facade decoration on Preclassic Maya architecture and its relation to the Olmec visual vocabulary

Date
2012
Authors
Hernandez, Eleazar
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Abstract

My work centers on Late Preclassic architectural stucco decorations on specific structures from the Maya lowland sites of El Mirador, Cival, Uaxactún, and Calakmul. A study of these carved stucco masks suggests that the imagery, characterized by a fleshy visage, may have precursors among the Formative period Olmec. While, colossal portrait heads were representations of specific Olmec deified rulers, the masks on Maya architecture represent mythic figures and are not standalone sculptural representations. This thesis examines concepts of inter-regional trade among the Olmec and Preclassic Maya to explore whether avenues of communication were open between the groups that facilitated the transfer of ideas and artistic representation. While this is not an attempt to enter into a discourse on the Olmec role as the "cultura madre" of Mesoamerica, it does underscore the fact that there was an influence in artistic representation that can be seen when comparing Olmec-styled artifacts to monumental Preclassic façade masks in the Maya lowlands.

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Keywords
Architecture, Facade Masks, Formative Period, Olmec, Preclassic Maya
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Department
Art and Art History