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Wyllie Presents Paper at College Art Association Conference
Cherra Wyllie, associate professor of art history, Hillyer College, presented a paper at the College Art Association’s 101st Annual Conference on Feb. 15 in New York City. The presentation, entitled The Women’s Terracotta Army: Large Scale Sculpture from El Zapotal, Veracruz, Mexico, was part of a symposium on "Precolumbian Ceramics: Form, Meaning, and Function." An expanded version of this paper will be published by University Press of Florida as a chapter in an edited volume on Precolumbian ceramics by Maline Werness-Rude and Michael Carrasco.
El Zapotal Mound 2 yielded hundreds of small, medium, and large-scale terracotta sculpture. A colossal skeletal god rendered in unbaked clay is the focal point of a banquette and ossuary. Nineteen life-sized terracotta women, each fashioned individually, flank the shrine in procession, interpreted by scholars as female warriors sacrificed in the battle of parturition, who accompany the Death God in the afterlife.
Newly available data on the Mound 2 depositional sequence, along with refined osteological analysis, and a greater understanding of termination rituals associated with the architecture of the region, suggests a re-evaluation of the narrative program. Throughout central and southern Veracruz we see indications of a changing emphasis in ritual activity, with women becoming key protagonists in elite spheres of activity. The large-scale terracotta sculpture in El Zapotal and throughout the Mixtequilla are an intricate part of this transition, and may signify new populations or changing religious beliefs.