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Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Symposia and Colloquia
The Cult of the Feline
A Conference on Pre-Columbian Iconography
Elizabeth P. Benson

First published in 1972, The Cult of the Feline was based on papers given at a conference held at Dumbarton Oaks in November 1970. The conference brought together anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, and ethnologists to explore the iconography of the feline, from Central Mexico to South America, from 1200 BC to the present. Carefully selected and expertly edited by Elizabeth P. Benson, the nine essays in the volume provide an excellent overview of the iconography of the feline in the Pre-Columbian world.

From the Preface:
“The Bliss Collection has been, since its beginning in 1912, primarily an esthetic one—probably the first esthetically oriented collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts—so it seemed appropriate to organize a conference that would focus on a cross-cultural, art-historical approach. When we sought for a theme, the first that came to mind was that great unifying factor in Pre-Columbian cultures—the feline. Large cats such as the jaguar and puma preoccupied the artists and religious thinkers of the very earliest civilizations, the Olmec in Mesoamerica and Chavín in Peru. The feline continued to be an important theme throughout much of the New World until the European conquests. . . . This conference was not only cross cultural but also cross disciplinary, with contributions from anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, and ethnologists.”
—Elizabeth P. Benson and Michael D. Coe