• Mary Miller
    Yale Office of Public Affairs

Southwestern University is honored to welcome Dr. Mary Miller, Sterling Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, to campus on February 1st. Dr. Miller is a specialist in the art of the ancient New World and a curator of major international exhibitions. She is visiting Southwestern as part of Phi Beta Kappa’s Visiting Scholar Program, and her lecture, “Were They Enslaved? Maya Figurines from Jaina and Beyond,” is free and open to the public.

Dr. Miller is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has delivered the Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art, as well as the Slade Lectures at Cambridge University. Her books include The Blood of Kings: Ritual and Dynasty in Maya Art; The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya; Maya Art and Architecture; Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya; A Pre-Columbian World; The Art of Mesoamerica; and The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak.

Dr. Miller’s lecture will discuss the ancient figurines crafted by the Maya of the Yucatan peninsula and offered during burials on the Island of Jaina during the years AD 600-900. Some of these figurines were made in molds, and thus mass-produced; others were made entirely by hand, carefully modeled to reveal animated gestures and expressions. Men and women, dwarves and children, these Jaina figurines reveal members of elite society, attendants at court, and a few more modest folk.

The complexity of Maya social life, especially for women, is rarely seen in other media, such as painted ceramics or monumental sculpture. Who are these weavers, these amorous women, these faithful companions of the dead? Although long assumed to be elite women or moon goddesses, female figurines may open a window on more disturbing Maya practices, particularly enslavement, and the culture of Jaina Island itself. The figurines can be seen through a variety of lenses: recent archaeology has provided rich new contexts for consideration and extensive examination of hundreds of examples in Mexico, Europe, and the United States makes it possible to see previously unrecognized roles and rituals. Additionally, identification of patterns of costume and accouterment offers fresh insights into this elegant figurine tradition.

This presentation will also address the enslavement of indigenous people by indigenous people. The practice is not well understood, rarely identified in the archaeological record, and sometimes overlooked in historical documents. Jaina figurines may offer a previously unknown window into enslavement.

Event Details

Who: Mary Miller, Sterling Professor of the History of Art, and Senior Director, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University

When: Thursday, February 1st at 5:00pm

Where: Olin Room 110 on the Southwestern University Campus

Pricing: This event is free and open to the public, with a reception directly following the lecture.

About the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students. For more information on the program and Phi Beta Kappa, please visit www.pbk.org.

Additional support for this event has been provided by the Sarofim School of Fine Arts Visiting Artist Series, Global Citizens Fund, Art and Art History Department, and International Studies Program.

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