Memory in Fragments: The Lives of Ancient Maya Sculptures

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© Courtesy of Stanford University Department of Art & Art History
Memory in Fragments: The Lives of Ancient Maya Sculptures

435 Lasuen Mall
Stanford, CA 94305
February 14th, 2012 5:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Peninsula/South Bay
(650) 725-0138
Lecture, sculpture
Free and open to the public


Stanford University Department of Art & Art History, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Faculty Diversity Initiative present a series of lectures.


New Perspectives on the Indigenous Cultures of the Americas

How does the act of fragmentation change a thing? What meaning can be found in fragments? What memories or stories do they evoke? Focusing on Classic period Maya monumental stone sculptures, this paper explores how sculptural fragments and broken edges may hold or stimulate memory—both in the ancient past and today. Megan E. O'Neil examines how fragments and broken edges, when indices of people’s interactions with monuments, make those interactions visible or otherwise materially manifest. She considers how material indices of use may have been meaningful in the ancient past, and she studies the various ways ancient Maya people treated these fragments, whether burying, displaying, recarving, or trashing them. She also explores if and how we may discern meaning from these fragments today and briefly address how different groups of people use fragments in varying reconstructions of the ancient Maya past in the context of present identities.


Megan E. O’Neil’s primary research is in ancient Maya art history and archaeology, but her research and teaching have also addressed other Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, in addition to Latin American art up to the twentieth century. She received her B.A. in Archaeological Studies from Yale College, her M.A. in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin, and her Ph.D. in History of Art from Yale. This spring, the University of Oklahoma Press will publish her book, Engaging Ancient Maya Sculpture at Piedras Negras, GuatemalaMegan E. O’Neil is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at The College of William and Mary.