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La Amelia Hieroglyphic Stairway, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Gift of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1958. © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 58-34-20/64670

1: Vital Signs: Active Images and Living Words among the Ancient Maya

Vital Signs: The Visual Cultures of Maya Writing

A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts

  • Sunday, April 16, 2023
  • 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • East Building Auditorium and Virtual
  • Talks
  • Hybrid
  • Registration Required

This is the first talk of the six-part series Vital Signs: The Visual Cultures of Maya Writing, presented by Stephen D. Houston of Brown University for the 72nd A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts.

What is alive or not, socially interactive or inert, may seem clear. It is not. The ancient Maya created images bursting with social energy and a kind of writing crackling with life. Maya writing is among the few known hieroglyphic systems, a type of script where vitality looms large. In ways both solemn and fun, glyphs touch on wider debates about the nature of matter, representation, and figuration, and how, in past belief, things made by humans possessed a miraculous capacity for action.