Becoming Divine: Stone Sculpture and Deity Impersonation in Classic Veracruz Visual Culture

Author(s): Caitlin Earley

Year: 2018


Recent study of an hacha from Classic-period Veracruz in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art reveals that hachas and palmas may have been used as costume elements in ritual performances related to the ballgame. As costume elements, these sculptures would have allowed actors to assume the identity of captives, rulers, or deities. This accords well with iconographic evidence of ballgame-related ritual performances in Veracruz, and suggests comparisons with artworks from other Mesoamerican cultures, in which rulers impersonate deities in performances associated with the ballgame. In this paper, I suggest that deity impersonation and performance are productive lenses through which to interpret ballgame-related sculpture, including yokes, hachas, and palmas. I examine a corpus of stone sculpture from Classic-period Veracruz, considering how such sculpture may have been used to invoke the presence of specific deities, and what it can tell us about the role of those deities in Veracruz culture. Incorporating comparative evidence from Central Mexico and the Maya area, I demonstrate that deity impersonation in Classic Veracruz worked to affirm political power, solicit the sanction of the divine, and express fundamental ideas about gods, the cosmos, and the continuation of time.

Cite this Record

Becoming Divine: Stone Sculpture and Deity Impersonation in Classic Veracruz Visual Culture. Caitlin Earley. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443740)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -98.987; min lat: 17.77 ; max long: -86.858; max lat: 25.839 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22345