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At the Edge of the Maya World: Power, Politics, and Identity in Monuments from the Comitán Valley, Chiapas, Mexico

Caitlin Earley, University of Texas at Austin, Junior Fellow 2014–2015

My fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks enabled me to complete and defend my dissertation. I documented and analyzed over fifty carved stone monuments from ancient centers in southeastern Chiapas, on the frontier of the Classic Maya region. This research has revealed that residents of centers like Tenam Puente and Chinkultic used specific sculptural styles to construct identities based on warfare, ritual, and power, and the results are changing our understanding of the Comitán Valley. I arrived at Dumbarton Oaks with drafts of several chapters, and the fellowship afforded me the time to revise these sections and to research and write the remaining portions of the dissertation. In the fall, I wrote the theory chapter, which benefited from collegial interaction with my peers at Dumbarton Oaks in which we explored concepts from ethnicity to borders and peripheries. These conversations also helped enhance my understanding of epigraphy and iconography in the Comitán Valley and led to the construction of a more nuanced history for this understudied corner of the Classic Maya world. A series of interdisciplinary conversations hosted by Michael Maas and Gary Urton led me in new directions and spurred progress on a number of ongoing projects, including an upcoming article on ancestor worship in ancient Maya art.