News Column

Evidence of Violence Found in Maya Mass Grave Focus of Lecture

February 27, 2014

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., Feb. 27 -- East Tennessee State University issued the following news:

"Personhood, Memory, and Violence in a Maya Mass Grave" will be the topic of a lecture at the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Natural History Museum and Visitors Center at the Gray Fossil Site this Saturday, March 1, at 1 p.m.

The free public talk will be given by Dr. William N. Duncan, assistant professor in ETSU's Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Duncan's talk will focus on the Post-Classic Period (ca. A.D. 950-1524), during which the political geography in northern Guatemala was dominated by two warring Mayan ethnic groups, the Itza and the Kowoj. Both groups used sacrifice and desecration of human bodies as a part of that ongoing conflict, and did so in a way that targeted specific aspects of personhood. Bodies were desecrated and displayed in civic forums in such a way to shape public memory.

During his talk, Duncan will present data from a Maya mass grave from northern Guatemala to explore these themes and discuss how archaeologists can sometimes gain insight into intangible aspects of past peoples' lives.

"Most people intuitively understand how archaeologists can learn about aspects of past economies, politics, diets, settlement patterns and even rituals by looking at ceramics, architecture, burials and other aspects of the material record," said Duncan. "What is less clear is how archaeologists can study less tangible aspects of the past, such as public memory and personhood and emotion."

Duncan received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2005. He studies bioarchaeology (human remains from archaeological sites) of Mesoamerican cultures, specifically the Maya, Mixtec and Zapotec.

Duncan's "Personhood, Memory, and Violence in a Maya Mass Grave" presentation is part of the ongoing speaker series hosted by the museum and is sponsored by the ETSU Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology. Interested persons should visit for dates and times of future lectures.

The museum is open for winter hours Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call (866) 202-6223. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at (423) 439-8346.

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Source: Targeted News Service

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