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Posture and gesture in ancient Maya art and culture

Maitland Gardner, AJ; (2017) Posture and gesture in ancient Maya art and culture. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis examines the representation of posture and gesture in Classic Maya art and explores the role of the body in communication and meaning in ancient Maya culture. The theory and anthropology of posture and gesture are utilised to generate hypotheses to explain the nature of Maya bodily communication. Methods for classifying posture and gesture are developed, drawing upon art history. Complexities of bodily communication and interpersonal behaviours are incorporated into the framework for figural analysis and discussion. Figures represented on Classic Maya ceramic vessels and on stone monuments are studied and compared to assess to what extent the materiality and viewing contexts of the imagery influence the postures and gestures represented. Hands in the Maya writing system and contemporary Maya gestural practices are also drawn upon to compare visual and written languages in Maya culture and to trace the temporal depth of body language. The cognitive and cultural production of gestures in Maya communities today is examined to assist in thinking about Maya gestures in the past. Postures and gestures in physical and interactional spaces are contextualised, and metaphors that underpin bodily expressions in the Maya world are explored. This research situates (and re-negotiates) the meanings of postures and gestures within the Maya worldview (and our understanding of it), but also stresses the importance of cross-cultural perspectives on bodily communication, particularly by considering the relationship between the physical forms of postures and gestures and the meanings that they communicate. It is argued that broad practices beyond elites in Maya society formed the repertoire from which gestures were drawn to function in particular iconographic contexts during the Classic Period. The postures and gestures represented in Maya art may not be part of an exclusively courtly etiquette but rather originate in a common body language that communicates meaning.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Posture and gesture in ancient Maya art and culture
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1549778
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