National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Sarah E. Jackson

Affiliation: University of Cincinnati

Sarah E. Jackson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cincinnati, and she holds her degrees from Harvard University.  Professor Jackson is an anthropological archaeologist, whose area of specialization is ancient Mesoamerica, particularly Classic Maya culture (materiality, ancient identities, indigenous political organization, and negotiation of culture change).  She is Project Co-Director for the ongoing Say Kah Archaeological Project in Belize, to gather with Linda Brown, and has also done fieldwork in Guatemala and Honduras.  Recent publication projects include “Water and Ancestors: Tangible and Intangible Resources at Say Kah, Belize” in Mexicon. (co-authored with L. A. Brown, 2019), and “Facing Objects: An Investigation of Non-Human Personhood in Ancient Maya Contexts” in Ancient Mesoamerica (2019).


This lecture explores the Classic Maya royal court and its members, through a focus on three carved stone monuments that depict various aspects of the court and its members. The royal court developed as a full-fledged institution within the context of the at-times tumultuous years of the Late Classic period (ca. AD 600-900), and research on its members and their roles reveal a strategically dynamic institution that was a productive locus of influence and power. The iconographic and hieroglyphic data explored in this talk shed light on the court as a political community, highlight the ways that this institution was variable and adaptable, and aid in identifying cultural metaphors that framed Maya understandings of the court.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Jackson, Sarah E.

2013   Politics of the Maya Court: Hierarchy and Change in the Late Classic Period. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

This lecture explores elements of a Classic Maya (ca. AD 250-900) material worldview; that is, how members of this ancient civilization understood, perceived, and experienced the material world around them. Information from Classic Maya hieroglyphic and iconographic sources allows for partial reconstruction of how the ancient Maya understood the materials we classify as “artifacts,” including: Maya perceptions of the material world, using categories and senses in ways that depart from our own; the person-like identities of many ancient objects, which invited social relationships and required attention; and ways that written texts were understood to behave in active and dynamic ways. As a result, we are challenged to see familiar materials differently, and to consider the methodological impacts on archaeological approaches for documenting and interpreting ancient objects.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Jackson, Sarah E.

In press           Facing Objects: An Investigation of Non-Human Personhood in Ancient Maya Contexts. Ancient Mesoamerica.

2017    Envisioning Artifacts: A Classic Maya View of the Archaeological Record. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 24(2):579-610.

2016    Pushing the Paperless Envelope: Digital Recording and Innovative Ways of Seeing at a Classic Maya Site. Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(2):176-191. Co-authored with C. Motz and L. Brown.

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