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M.A.R.I. Bulletin: Volume 4, No. 1 (Spring)
Studying the indigenous cultures of Mexico and Central America since 1924

Director's News

With 2013 and the new Baktun, M.A.R.I. has been renewed in its efforts to open its doors and make its resources accessible.



To begin with, the 10th Annual Tulane Maya Symposium in February was a great success. We had more registrants this year than in recent years and our public keynote talk at the New Orleans Museum of Art drew more than 200 people! Peter Mathews gave a wonderful and engaging keynote that started us off in grand fashion. The symposium talks were all wonderful, drawing and keeping more than 100 folks in the auditorium the entire day.... in fact, a few declared to me that they were not ready for it to end even after 9 hours of talks! Finally, the Sunday workshops were a tour-de-force display of knowledge, bringing many experts together. I want to thank all of the volunteers, participants and registrants for making it as successful a meeting as we have ever had!


Accessibility and openness of M.A.R.I. and its resources is of paramount importance to me, and we have been striving to improve in this regard. To that end, we have recently posted summary lists of our collections on our Collections web-page. The work is on-going and we hope to complete this initial task in the next few months. Eventually, we will be developing an on-line catalog of all our materials.


Lastly, M.A.R.I. has developed a new and comprehensive five-year strategic plan that will be posted on our website soon. We always welcome comments, advice, and help. As you all know, I hope to expand M.A.R.I. in the next years so any support you can provide is welcome. We have received some generous donations this year, and thanks to all of you, I am sure we can keep it up!


Best to all,



Notes from the Field

Here we feature the research efforts and scholarly accomplishments of the many members of the Tulane community affiliated with M.A.R.I.


In this issue we hear from Caroline Parris, graduate student in the Anthropology department at Tulane University.




This summer I will be returning to Guatemala to continue my work with the Proyecto Regional Arqueológico La Corona, directed by Marcello Canuto, with whom I have been working since 2009. This year, I will be in the lab in Guatemala City examining sherds of pottery from both a public plaza and a household of the Classic Maya site of La Corona.


My dissertation work will use these bits and pieces of pottery vessels to examine how the ancient Maya used ceramic vessels in their everyday lives and in negotiating varying social contexts. A portion of my research this summer has been funded by M.A.R.I. for which I am very grateful.

Recent analysis of ancient Aztec sculpture


M.A.R.I.'s tepetlacalli fragment now being re-evaluated


Since the Fall semester, Anthropology graduate student, Willem VanEssendelft has been studying an important piece in the M.A.R.I. artifact collection. It came to M.A.R.I. decades ago as part of the personal collection of the late Dr. Hermann Beyer. It is a fragment of an intricately carved Aztec stone box likely dating to the late 15th century AD. Despite the fact that it is an example of a rare class of Aztec artifact, the piece is barely known; consequently, it has been neither studied nor published fully.




Measuring ca. 22 x 10 x 9cm (L x W x H) and carved from basalt, the fragment is roughly triangle-shaped with carving on all four sides. The carving is clear and each element is traced with accent lines that were added after the initial incisions. The fragment appears to be the lid of a box known as a tepetlacalli, which is a stone box carved in the manner of traditional Aztec reed storage boxes. The name literally means "stone basket".


Both the interior and outer face have sculpted hieroglyphs and iconography associated with the sun and water. The exterior lip contains a complicated linear pattern related to clouds and rain. The top of the box displays a striking serpentine element infixed and affixed with clearly carved signs. Curiously, while definitively Postclassic in date (AD 1200-1500), the interior of the box lid contains iconography distinctly related to Teotihuacan but utilized within an Aztec paradigm of solar imagery, further reinforcing the connection between Aztec and Teotihuacan art.


Willem is currently studying the hieroglyphs on the fragment to understand their meaning from both an iconographic and logographic perspective. Additionally, he is reconstructing the original dimensions of the entire tepetlacalli based on the presence of a partially visible circular solar sign in order to provide the first reconstruction of this important object.



M.A.R.I. collections used in Anthropology course focused on ceramic analysis


M.A.R.I. collections prove useful for Anthropology course


Over the years, M.A.R.I.'s collections have proven useful to researchers, scholars, and specialists of prehispanic cultures of Mexico and Central America. At the moment, however, Tulane undergraduates and graduate students are getting a chance to undertake their own studies of these materials through an advanced Anthropology class offered by Dr. Jason Nesbitt, titled "Ceramic Analysis" (Anthropology 4610/7610).



The course covers the basic principles of archaeological ceramic analysis. As a final project, each student was asked to choose a ceramic collection at M.A.R.I. for hands-on analysis. Students have been examining pottery collections from Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mississippi. As a final result the students will complete term papers that will provide detailed classification and description of their respective ceramic collections. We are hoping that some of these graduate projects will eventually be expanded for publication or presentation at professional conferences.


We are grateful to the students for contributing to the further understanding of M.A.R.I.'s collections.

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