Sabios in Situ: Art-making and Representing Authority at Classic Period Xultun

Author(s): Franco Rossi

Year: 2015


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 analysis of the archaeological context in which it occurs—situating specific works in place, time, and socio-cultural setting. This paper attempts one such reconstruction, focusing on the eighth century Maya mural at the Los Sabios group within the site of Xultun, Guatemala. I discuss the social and political implications of the Xultun mural in light of the archaeological record on site, to shed light on the ways residents shaped this living work of art and were themselves shaped by what anthropologist Stephen Houston calls the mural’s "moral narrative." Together, the images, texts, and archaeological materials found in and around the chamber enable us to contextualize acts of art-making and their authorship, as well as engage larger questions regarding the cultural constructs and systems of authority shaping artistic literacy and its pedagogy in Maya society.

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Cite this Record

Sabios in Situ: Art-making and Representing Authority at Classic Period Xultun. Franco Rossi. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396331)


Maya Mural Pedagogy

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;