The Beast Between
Deer in Maya Art and Culture
288 Pages, 7.00 x 10.00 x 2.10 in, 20 b&w photos, 170 b&w illus.
Sales Date: April 22, 2019
The first book to focus on the multifaceted images of deer and hunting in ancient Maya art, from the award-winning author of To Be Like Gods: Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization.
Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2019
The white-tailed deer had a prominent status in Maya civilization: it was the most important wild-animal food source at many inland Maya sites and also functioned as a major ceremonial symbol. Offering an in-depth semantic analysis of this imagery, The Beast Between considers iconography, hieroglyphic texts, mythological discourses, and ritual narratives to translate the significance and meaning of the vibrant metaphors expressed in a variety of artifacts depicting deer and hunting.
Charting the importance of deer as a key component of the Maya diet, especially for elites, and analyzing the coupling of deer and maize in the Maya worldview, The Beast Between reveals a close and long-term interdependence between the Maya and these animals. Not only are deer depicted naturalistically in hunting and ritual scenes, but also they are assigned human attributes. This rich imagery reflects the many ways in which deer hunting was linked to status, sexuality, and war as part of a deeper process to ensure the regeneration of both agriculture and ancestry. Drawing on methodologies of art history, archaeology, and ethnology, this illuminating work is poised to become a key resource for multiple fields.
"The Beast Between explores the significance of deer to the Maya, treating readers to programs of art dating to the zenith of Classic Maya civilization, to mythological tales recorded among the living Maya, and to consideration of the role of deer in the practicalities of daily life both ancient and modern. There is nowhere else where a scholar or student can find, assembled in one place, discussion of the many ways in which deer factored into the symbolic and practical world of the Maya. The study is a fascinating journey into the complex ways in which the Maya constructed (and continue to construct) meaning."~Julia Guernsey
Looper is one of the most skillful readers of glyphs and iconography, and he has brought these powers to bear to make surprising but well-supported arguments.~Carolyn Tate
"The author makes important contributions here, especially to ongoing efforts to recover poorly understood aspects of ancient Maya mythology as revealed through scenes on painted pottery. Profusely illustrated, well written, and amply documented, this book can also serve as a rewarding entrée into broader subjects of ancient and modern Maya culture from archaeological, art historical, and ethnographic perspectives."~CHOICE
"[The Beast Between] provides an important addition to the overlapping fields of art history, anthropology, archaeology, and Maya studies...This book provides the definitive starting point for an important dialogue regarding the meaning of the deer in Maya iconography and semiology...Even as it highlights future avenues of research, Looper’s work presents the first thorough and wide-ranging look at the deer in the Maya world from the ancient to modern periods. As such, this volume provides important insights into deer use among the Maya and will frame and influence all subsequent considerations of this often understudied and underappreciated creature for years to come."~caa.reviews
"Much can be learned from this richly varied book, and it certainly contains numerous starting points for further investigation."~Anthropos
Looper’s detailed and eloquent volume reveals the complexity of the deer image in the Maya world, which could be used and read in multiple ways to construct meaning. It might also be of interest to those working in other regions and time periods where wild animals appear to have had a particularly special place, such as later prehistoric Europe.~Antiquity
- Chapter 1. Deer Life: The Maya Ethnobiology of Deer
- Chapter 2. Bones to Picks: The Classic Maya Use and Depiction of Durable Deer Remains
- Chapter 3. Big Bucks: Deer and Social Status
- Chapter 4. Wearing the Horns: Deer, Sexuality, and Fertility in “Dying God” Scenes
- Chapter 5. Locking Horns: Deer Hunting, Warfare, the Ballgame, and Male Rites of Passage
- Chapter 6. Hart’s Devotion: The Siip in Classic and Postclassic Maya Society
- Chapter 7. A Sinking Hart: The Solar Symbolism of Deer in Maya Art
- Chapter 8. Deer Departed: Cervid Spirits of Death and Disease
- Epilogue. Out of the Woods: Deer and Borders
The publication of The Beast Between was made possible by the support of the The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies.