Thursday, November 7, 2019
Title: Are You My Mother? A Critical Examination of the Evidence for Maya–Olmec Relations in Western Belize
Abstract: Ever since the “Cultura Madre” concept was proposed in the 1940s, there has been an ongoing debate between “Olmequistas” and Mayanists about the origins of lowland Maya civilization. This situation is best exemplified by a recent observation that, “Classic Maya society was not an anomalous, mysterious cult invented in the jungles of northern Guatemala 1,800 years ago. Rather, it was the outcome of a long historical evolutionary process stretching back to the mid-second millennium B.C. and to the Gulf lowland Olmec heartland.” Unfortunately, this other earlier perspectives on Maya–Olmec relations have never been based on systematic and comprehensive comparisons of Preclassic cultural remains and symbols from the Gulf Coast and the Maya lowlands. These relational claims also generally focus on singular cultural characteristics while ignoring the rich and diverse archaeological data that have been recovered in Belize and the Peten. By systematically comparing a broad range of Preclassic cultural remains from Belize with coeval data from the Olmec heartland, this presentation provides a far more accurate picture of lowland Maya–Olmec relationship than previously presented.