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Smoke, Flames, and the Human Body in Mesoamerican Ritual Practice

Music Room at Dumbarton Oaks
October 9  –  10, 2015
Fully Booked
Pre-Columbian Studies Symposium, Vera Tiesler and Andrew Scherer, Symposiarchs

Symposium registration has reached capacity. Please contact to be added to the waiting list.

Dumbarton Oaks is pleased to announce the annual Pre-Columbian symposium, to be held in the Music Room of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 9, and Saturday, October 10, 2015. The symposium, organized by Vera Tiesler and Andrew Scherer, will run for two full days, beginning Friday morning and concluding late Saturday afternoon.

Epitomizing the radiating sun and perpetuating the cycles of life and time, fire was and continues to be a central force in the Mesoamerican cosmos. In the Mesoamerican worldview, heat and flames are animate forces and signify strength and vitality; the most powerful of individuals are embodied with immense heat. Moreover, fire is transformative; it is both a means to destroy and to transport offerings to otherworldly places. The importance of heat and flames is evident in a spectrum of ritual practices, ranging from the use of sweat baths to the burning of offerings, especially copal.

In Pre-Columbian times, human bodies were among the most valuable resources heated or consumed by fire. The collection of papers in this symposium revolves around the body and represents a diversity of approaches to the uses and multilayered meanings of fire in ancient, historic, and modern Mesoamerica, including archaeology, bioarchaeology, epigraphy, iconography, ethnohistory, and ethnography.

The symposium is organized by Vera Tiesler (Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán) and Andrew Scherer (Brown University). Symposium speakers include Ximena Chávez (Tulane University/Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia), Oswaldo Chinchilla (Yale University), John Chuchiak (Missouri State University), Danièle Dehouve (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense), William Duncan (East Tennessee State University), Markus Eberl (Vanderbilt University), Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen), Stephen Houston (Brown University), Jesper Nielsen (University of Copenhagen), Guilhem Olivier (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Joel Palka (University of Illinois, Chicago), Grégory Pereira (French National Centre for Scientific Research), Pedro Pitarch (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Prudence Rice (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), and Gabrielle Vail (New College of Florida). John Verano (Tulane University) will provide concluding remarks.

Space for this event is limited, and registration will be handled on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Hearth and the drilling of new fire from the Codex Borgia (ca. 15th century, Mexico.