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Home » News » Art History's Michael Carrasco: Grants & Publications in Mesoamerican Art & Writing

Art History's Michael Carrasco: Grants & Publications in Mesoamerican Art & Writing

Published April 4, 2015

Art History Associate Professor Michael D. Carrasco investigates Maya architecture and Mesoamerican Formative Period art and writing with many individual and collaborative research projects and publications.  This spring two of his works will be published; first, his epilogue to the book Maya Imagery, Architecture, and Activity: Space and Spatial Analysis in Art History, which studies from an art historical perspective the ways the ancient Maya organized, manipulated, created, interacted with, and conceived of the world around them. Carrasco’s contribution both elaborates the theoretical threads that run throughout the book and uses discursive, ontic, and pictorial spatial information to reveal the specific ritual significance of House E, the site of coronation for many of Palenque’s kings.  

Carrasco’s second publication this spring, “Diphrastic Kennings on the Cascajal Block and the Emergence of Mesoamerican Writing” (with Prof. Joshua Englehardt), will appear in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. This article examines a potential “throne–mat” kenning in the Middle Formative period Olmec writing on the Cascajal Block, an incised serpentine slab dated to ca. 900 bc, and shows how this literary trope can be used as evidence indicating the development of a sign system whose organization is governed more by the structure of language and the conventions of writing than the iconic organizational schemes found in canonical Formative period iconography.

Carrasco and Englehardt have just completed field research in Tabasco, Mexico on the NEH-funded Corpus of Formative Period Mesoamerican Art and Writing project, photographing and scanning Olmec sculpture and inscriptions.  They are now working with Professor Dennis Slice and graduate student researcher Cameron Berkley (Morphometrics Lab, Department of Scientific Computing)  to integrate this material into the project’s database. The Corpus project – the only NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to be awarded to a Florida researcher in 2014 – is a collaborative effort to combine previous and new archaeological material into a centralized database with analytic tools allowing investigators worldwide to reassess the critical role of Olmec art in the invention of writing in the Americas.

In part based on the Corpus project, Carrasco and Englehardt will present two papers this spring:  “Formative Period Interregional Interaction and the Emergence of Mesoamerican Scripts” at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in San Francisco (April 15-19), and “Conventions and Linguistic Tropes in Olmec Art and Writing,” an invited paper sponsored by the Confucius Institute of Rutgers University (CIRU) to be presented at the conference “The Chinese Writing System and Its Dialogue with Sumerian, Egyptian, and Mesoamerican Writing Systems” on May 29-31.

Carrasco will also present “Cycads, Maize, and Garfish: The Representation of Ethnoecological Systems in Olmec Iconography” at the 10th International Conference on Cycad Biology, August 16-21, 2015 in Medellín, Colombia. This paper figures in the joint project Sacred Ancestors of Maize: Ritual Meanings and Uses of Cycads in Northeastern Mexico directed by Mark Bonta (Penn State University Altoona) investigating the cultural role of Mexican cycads and their associations with maize agriculture and milpa agroecosystems.

In addition to these projects, this summer Professor Carrasco will finish portions of his book From the Stone Painter’s Brush: An Anthology, Commentary, and Analysis of Classic Maya Literature with the support of a Committee on Faculty Research Support (COFRS) grant by the Council on Research and Creativity at FSU. This book presents important examples of Maya literature from the major genres preserved in the Classic period (AD 250-900) corpus of inscriptions.