National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Olivia Navarro-Farr

Affiliation: The College of Wooster

Olivia C. Navarro-Farr is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Chair of the Program in Archaeology at the College of Wooster. She teaches courses in archaeology, anthropology, and ancient Mesoamerica. She has worked in the Maya area since 1997 on projects in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala and she currently directs research at the Proyecto Arqueológico Waka’ (PAW) with Juan Carlos Pérez Calderón of San Carlos University of Guatemala and Damien Marken of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. She has published in Latin American Antiquity, Feminist Anthropology, and in numerous chapters in various edited volumes. She is also co-editor (with Michelle Rich) of Archaeology at El Perú -Waka’: Performances of Ritual, Memory, and Power detailing research at ancient El Perú -Waka’. She has directed investigations at Waka’s primary civic-ceremonial structure (M13-1) since 2003. Her interests include the archaeology of ritual, monumental architecture, site abandonment processes, Classic Period Politics, and the role of royal women in Classic Maya statecraft.


My talk focuses on the symbolic significance of Classic Maya royal queens of the snake realm and their political power which rose prominently during the Late Classic under the auspices of that regime. Their hypogamous marriages to subordinate vassal polities throughout the southern Maya lowlands created a network of alliances that elevated the snake realm’s hegemony. Utilizing the Indigenous ontology of gender complementarity as a foundational creation principle, I argue the power of these snake Queens was grounded not just in their association with that regime, but as women with the attendant implications of fecundity and reproductive power as central to their political cachet. These power domains, steeped in the potent magic of fertility, were also central to their rule as conjurers and diviners, acts of sorcery themselves metaphorically linked to birth and birth work. Orienting my position from the ancient city of Waka’, I review the substantial archaeological and epigraphic data surrounding two such queens who ruled during the 6th and 7th centuries, respectively. I evaluate how these lines of evidence permit keen understanding of their governing strategies, their wielding of sacred power, and how the people they ruled ancestralized them in memory for generations to follow, cementing their legacy within Waka’s social and political landscape and beyond.

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