Samantha King

Mentor: Santa Arias, Professor, Spanish

The Divine Crop: Representations of Maize in the Mayan Culture

Maize, first cultivated more than 7,000 years ago in the area that is now central Mexico, was, and continues to be, a central component to the diet of indigenous Americans. However, maize did not only provide sustenance for the indigenous, but also informed their mythology, and as a result, their art and oral and written traditions. It is important to be able to distinguish between the dietary, cultural and economic roles of maize in order to separate its utilitarian characteristics from its divine characteristics. In the Popol Vuh, the first written record of the Mayan creation story, the gods first attempted to create man from wood and clay, but ultimately failed. Maize, in the end, was the appropriate medium from which to form humanity, thereby becoming the divine base of Mayan society. By examining representations of maize in Mayan texts, sculptures and drawings, I will show how the crop contributed to the development of indigenous mythology and therefore directly aided in the construction and strengthening of a unique Mayan identity.

Major: Spanish & Supply Chain Management
Study Abroad: Argentina


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