Speaker: Elizabeth P. Benson
Title: "Maya and Moche"
While making no argument for diffusion, Elizabeth Benson compared similarities in social structure, in ritual life, and in the importance of art in the expression of both Maya and Moche cultures. These classic Maya and Moche cultures flourished during approximately the same periods, and although their physical environments were radically different (jungle versus desert), there are many similarities between them. Applying what we know about the literate Maya to the study of Moche art and culture enhances our understanding of the later, or at least may indicate some of the questions to be asked. And eventually the favor may be returned, and the Moche shed light on features of Maya culture.
Elizabeth P. Benson has a long and distinguished career in Pre-Columbian studies. She is Research Associate at the Institute of Andean Studies. She has served as both Director of the Center for Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks and as Curator for the Pre-Columbian Collection at that institution, where she organized ten conferences beginning with the "Dumbarton Oaks Conference on the Olmec" in 1967. She was Andrew S. Keck Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art History at American University and has taught courses at the University of Texas, Columbia University, The Catholic University of America, and for the Smithsonian Resident Associate
She served as consultant for many exhibitions, among them, "The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera," shown at the M. H. De Young Memorial Museum in 1996-1997. In 1996, she co-edited and was joint author of the exhibition catalog, Olmec Art of Ancient America, for the National Gallery of Art. She was Guest Curator of a traveling exhibition "Birds and Beasts of Ancient Latin America," which opened at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 1995.
Benson has published many works on Andean and Mesoamerican topics. Her 1998 article, "The Lord, the Ruler: Jaguar Symbolism in the Americas" in Icons of Power, edited by Nicholas Saunders, discusses the association of powerful felines with social authority. Her recent book, Birds and Beasts of Ancient Latin America, (University Press of Florida) continues her longtime study of animal and bird imagery in Pre-Columbian cultures.
Her latest book is The Moche People (to be published by Thames and Hudson).
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