A thousand years ago, the Comitán Valley, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, was the western edge of the Maya world. Far from the famous power centers of the Classic period, the valley has been neglected even by specialists. Here, Caitlin C. Earley offers the first comprehensive study of sculpture excavated from the area, showcasing the sophistication and cultural vigor of a region that has largely been ignored.
Supported by the rulers of the valley’s cities, local artists created inventive works that served to construct civic identities. In their depictions of warrior kings, ballgames, rituals, and ancestors, the artists of Comitán made choices that reflected political and religious goals and distinguished the artistic production of the Comitán Valley from that of other Maya locales. After the Maya abandoned their powerful lowland centers, those in Comitán were maintained, a distinction from which Earley draws new insights concerning the Maya collapse. Richly illustrated with never-before-published photographs of sculptures unearthed from key archaeological sites, The Comitán Valley is an illuminating work of art historical recovery and interpretation.
Caitlin C. Earley is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Caitlin Earley provides a fresh and evocative perspective on the power of ancient Maya sculpture, drawing new connections between artistic communities and their patrons. More broadly, The Comitán Valley is a masterful contribution to literature about the role of the visual arts in distinct strategies of governance and ways of forming civic identity.
~James Doyle, Penn State University, author of Architecture and the Origins of Preclassic Maya Politics
List of Figures
1. The Edge of the Maya World: An Introduction
2. Kings and Captives at Tenam Puente
3. Bodies in the Ballcourt: Art and Identity at Tenam Rosario
4. Rulers and Ritual at Chinkultic
5. Art and the Ancestors at Quen Santo
6. Transformation: Comitán and the Postclassic
7. Conclusion: Frontiers, Identity, and the Comitán Style
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