Modeling culture with figurines
This thesis examines the way in which figurines were created and used to embody aspects of the culture and community at the Late Classic Maya site of Quirigua using a collection of figurines housed in the Middle American Research Institute (M.A.R.I.). By understanding Maya figurines as a whole - looking at their history and what distinguishes Late Classic figurines – and their different attributes (manufacturing techniques, function, iconography, and decoration) Maya figurines can be studied within their own contexts. Further study of the geographic region and the cultural/historical influences of the southeastern periphery region, as well as the settlement history, political and cultural relations, and figurine production/use at Quirigua itself provides a better background of the site from which this collection was found. The geochemical analysis (via neutron activation analysis) and macroscopic analysis of manufacturing techniques, function, iconography, and decoration, when considered within the previously discussed contexts, illustrates different elements of the people who lived at the site of Quirigua. Aspects of how their society was structured as well as the materialization of different important ideological themes ultimately come together to help us better understand the community of Quirigua itself. Figurines transcend the divides usually placed between people and between levels of society – namely between the household and political systems that govern them – and embody the connections and relationships that form across the entire community. This study shows us how materials, no matter how small, can provide answers to monumental questions and provides a great example of how to use legacy collections, even ones without provenience, in serious archaeological work by applying rigorous and thorough analytical methods, allowing us to better understand past communities, like the one found at Quirigua.