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Classic Veracruz: Cultural Currents in the Ancient Gulf Lowlands

Pre-Columbian Symposium, 11–12 October 2003, Philip Arnold Ⅲ, Christopher Pool, and Richard Diehl, Symposiarchs

Classic Period Veracruz reveals cultural traditions rich in artwork, writing systems, and far-flung political relationships. Despite these impressive achievements, archaeological treatments of Classic-Period Mesoamerica continue to relegate ancient Veracruz to the Mesoamerican cultural periphery, overshadowed by highland Mexico, Oaxaca, and the lowland Maya. Thus the contributions of ancient Veracruz to the cultural achievements of Mesoamerica's Classic Period have been consistently overlooked.

This symposium highlights Classic Period Veracruz and our understanding of the cultural currents that shaped it. Three over-arching themes chart the ebb and flow of the ancient Gulf Lowlands and place the region in its broader Mesoamerican context. Polity and Economy explores how the forces of governmental interaction, emulation, and resistance contoured the cultural landscape. Papers in this section consider how intra- and inter-regional influence was absorbed and/or deflected as part of local elite strategies across Veracruz. The Architecture and Settlement, session addresses settlement configurations along two scales. One set of papers takes a site-centered approach that investigates the role of formal architecture in communicating power relations while the second adopts a regional perspective that explores how settlement layouts either grafted onto existing political geographies or rejected them through an imposed redundancy. Iconography and Epigraphy, the final session, considers how texts and other forms of representation contoured the cultural terrain of Classic Period Veracruz. Discussions range from iconography and early writing to built environments as expressions of ideology. Taken together, these three sections encourage scholars to reconsider the cultural landscape of the ancient Gulf lowlands by highlighting how social, political, and ideological practices interacted with the physical environment to shape the diversity within Classic Period Veracruz cultures.

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