ABOUT THIS BOOK
Rather than view the contours of Late Classic Maya social life solely from towering temple pyramids or elite sculptural forms, this book considers a suite of small anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and supernatural figurative remains excavated from household refuse deposits. Maya Figurines examines these often neglected objects and uses them to draw out relationships between the Maya state and its subjects.
These figurines provide a unique perspective for understanding Maya social and political relations; Christina T. Halperin argues that state politics work on the microscale of everyday routines, localized rituals, and small-scale representations. Her comprehensive study brings together archeology, anthropology, and art history with theories of material culture, performance, political economy, ritual humor, and mimesis to make a fascinating case for the role politics plays in daily life. What she finds is that, by comparing small-scale figurines with state-sponsored, often large-scale iconography and elite material culture, one can understand how different social realms relate to and represent one another. In Maya Figurines, Halperin compares objects from diverse households, archeological sites, and regions, focusing especially on figurines from Petén, Guatemala, and comparing them to material culture from Belize, the northern highlands of Guatemala, the Usumacinta River, the Campeche coastal area, and Mesoamerican sites outside the Maya zone. Ultimately, she argues, ordinary objects are not simply passive backdrops for important social and political phenomena. Instead, they function as significant mechanisms through which power and social life are intertwined.