Mural Painting and the Ancient Americas

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Artist and activist Judy Baca argues that: Muralism is a work made in relatedness. Related to the people that surround it; related to the place it is in and made in a public voice. Mural paintings made either in twentieth-century Los Angeles or in eighth-century Guatemala are works that are often time-, place-, and community-specific. A medium whose life can be brief, the ties between murals and the time, place, and communities make their ephemerality all the more poignant.The last thirty years of archaeological research have uncovered extraordinary mural paintings throughout the Americas. Advances in technical, material, and art historical research have provoked reassessments of long-known painted walls. This symposium seeks to generate interdisciplinary and inter-regional dialogue on the meanings and functions of mural paintings from diverse chronological, geographic, and cultural settings. The papers presented in this panel move beyond formal and iconographic descriptions to address the ways in which context matters in the production of meaning and how archaeological inquiry might open new vistas on murals as temporally, spatially, and socially related works.

Other Keywords
MayaMural paintingRitualTradeArtIconographyPueblosPaintingBuilt EnvironmentArchaeometry

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • Ancient, Modern, and Post-Modern: Pueblo Mural Painting of the Southwestern U.S. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kelley Hays-Gilpin.

    Over a period of centuries between about AD 1000 and 1540, Ancestral Pueblo communities in what is now the southwestern U.S. developed elaborate, iconic mural painting traditions. The most detailed and best-known murals were excavated in kivas (ceremonial structures) at the sites of Awat’ovi and Kawayka’a on the Hopi Mesas, Arizona, and at Pottery Mound and Kuaua near Albuquerque, New Mexico. These murals not only express ritual and worldview in the 15th century but inspire contemporary artwork...

  • Archaeology, Identity and Art: The Caranqui Murals of Ibarra, Ecuador (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tamara Bray.

    The incorporation of signs and symbols derived from an ancient, indigenous past has a long and venerable history in the tradition of New World muralism. As an important form of public art, murals merit a more sustained consideration of content, context, and communicative intent. The use of specific, realistic archaeological content in contemporary works is an interesting phenomenon that underscores the relation between the politics of identity (re-)construction and historical...

  • Archaeometry and Mural Paintings in Ancient Peru: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Apprehend the Prehispanic Artisan Painters (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Véronique Wright.

    Mural art is an artistic expression common to most of the Prehispanic societies and it was often investigated though iconographic point of view. Nevertheless, the recent researches particularly on Moche mural paintings (1st-8th century) have demonstrated the archaeometry contribution to study these polychromic vestiges. Indeed it constitutes a valued tool to apprehend these ancient societies and to preserve its exceptional painting patrimony. Thus, until 2012, a new research project is...

  • Beyond Surrealism: The Anthropological Sources of Leonora Carrington's "El mundo mágico de los mayas" (1964) (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nancy Deffebach.

    In 1963 Leonora Carrington was invited to create a mural-sized painting for the highland Maya ethnography room at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. El mundo mágico de los mayas (1964) portrays the humans, gods, and spirits that inhabit the sacred space of the modern Maya. Carrington’s debt to surrealism is immediately apparent. Her greater debt to anthropology is less obvious. Carrington made several research trips to Chiapas and read extensively about the Maya before she...

  • Classic Veracruz Mural Painting (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cherra Wyllie.

    Mexican iconographer Sara Ladron de Guevara identified three distinct Classic Veracruz mural painting traditions centered at El Tajin, Las Higueras, and El Zapotal. In this paper I examine how canons of representation, color palette, and architectural planning reveal regional and inter-regional artistic preferences. Beyond aesthetic considerations I analyze these same attributes from the perspective of semiotics. I will focus on what the art and architecture at the three sites tells us about...

  • Gender Ideologies in Zapatista Maya Murals and Postclassic Mural Programs from the Eastern Maya Seaboard (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gabrielle Vail.

    Zapatista murals focusing on the autonomy of Maya women and their connections with the earth have strong ties to prehispanic iconographic programs that emphasize the role of female supernaturals and ancestors in nourishing and sustaining the cosmos. This presentation examines ideologies of the Zapatista movement, particularly those related to gender, as represented in the artwork associated with the movement, and draws comparisons to ideologies represented in mural programs such as those from...

  • Murales prehispánicos en la costa norte del Perú: la imagen del poder y el poder de la imagen (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ricardo Morales.

    La costa norte del Perú ofrece impresionantes evidencias de una intensa actividad artística, asociada al manejo geopolítico de las sociedades desarrolladas entre desiertos y valles (3000 a. de C. a 1542). Una muestra del ingenio y habilidad de artistas al servicio de los grupos de poder. Colosales templos de tierra policromada, con impresionantes espacios ceremoniales que fueron acondicionados para pintar en sus paredes un ordenado discurso iconográfico que evidencia la función ceremonial de los...

  • Painting as process: The context of mural production in the Puebloan Southwest (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Julie Solometo.

    Murals have played a role in Pueblo religious practice since the AD 900s. Mural painting seems to have reached its zenith in the late 1300s to 1600s when richly detailed scenes of anthropomorphs, animals, and objects were produced at multiple sites in the American Southwest, providing glimpses of a complex ritual system. While scholars have traditionally approached these wall paintings from a motif-centered perspective, ethnographic observations of 19th and early 20th century mural painting...

  • Painting Ourselves out of a Corner: Considerations on the Medium (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victoria Lyall.

    While the connections between ancient mural paintings and twentieth-century urban mural programs may seem tenuous, certain technical, structural, and physical considerations of the medium itself link exemplars from past and present. The inextricable relationship between murals and their architectural supports as well as its scale can compel a different type of viewing and visceral engagement than other types of two-dimensional media; it forces a relatedness that must be unpacked. In this paper,...

  • Postclassic Murals of Mayapan as a Mirror of Cultural Transformation (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Susan Milbrath. Carlos Peraza Lope.

    The changing pictorial imagery in the murals of Mayapan offers a rich picture of cultural transformation in Postclassic Yucatan. The archaeological chronology of Mayapan and comparisons with murals elsewhere in Mesoamerica provide an anchor for the mural chronology. Between 1350 and 1400, Mayapan’s murals represent imagery that apparently was inspired by different sources. One mural program can be compared with the hybrid Maya painting style of the Madrid Codex, which also uses the same pigments...

  • Presenting Order: Painting as Mythic Past and Mathematical Future in the Murals of San Bartolo and Xultun, Guatemala (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Saturno.

    Though the murals of San Bartolo and Xultun are located only 8km apart in the lowland forests of Guatemala they are separated by more than 800 years of Maya history and reflect very different relationships between society and the cosmos as well as between the artworks and their intended audiences. Where one publicly recounts episodes of Maya mythology and the idealized roles of both gods and kings in the creation and maintenance of cosmic order, the other painted within a private household...

  • Revisioning the Relationship between Man and Jaguar: A Reassesment of the Olmec Paintings of Oxtotitlán, Guerrero, Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Hurst.

    The rock art of the Oxtotitlán and Juxtlahuaca caves are among the earliest known examples of Mesoamerican figurative wall painting. As part of the recent research initiative examining the Oxtotitlán cave paintings, re-illustration presents new images of the ancient artworks. Detailed field drawings are combined with multispectral imaging data and analysis of painting technology to precisely record the art, even when lines are no longer visible to the naked eye. Increased clarity of the...

  • Sabios in Situ: Art-making and Representing Authority at Classic Period Xultun (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Franco Rossi.

    The study of mural art has moved beyond analytical approaches that isolate these highly meaningful works from the anthropological contexts that produced them, toward approaches that underscore their inseparability from the complex circumstances surrounding their production. However, such contexts in the ancient world are not directly observable and therefore cannot be studied using ethnographic methods. Instead, sociological dimensions of ancient art must be reconstructed through careful...

  • The virtual reconstruction of "Los Bebedores Mural" from Cholula, Puebla, México (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gabriela Uruñuela. Patricia Plunket.

    Almost half a century has gone by since the discovery of Los Bebedores (The Drinkers) in 1969, and it still has not received the attention that one of the most extensive large format murals in Mesoamerica deserves. A poor preservation, a hasty register because the Cholula Project was ending, an unfortunate later restoration, and the repetitive selection of the more obvious personages to illustrate the few publications on the theme, are just some of the factors responsible for the scarce...