Blood and Beauty: Organized Violence in the Art and Archaeology of Mesoamerica and Central America


Series: Ideas, Debates, and Perspectives 4
ISBN: 978-1-931745-58-1
Publication Date: Sep 2009
Price: Hb $30, Pb $20, eBook $25
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Heather Orr and Rex Koontz

Warfare, ritual human sacrifice, and the rubber ballgame are the traditional practices through which scholars have most often examined organized violence in the artistic and material records of ancient Mesoamerica and Central America.

This volume expands them to include such activities as gladiatorial-like boxing combats, investiture rites, trophy-head taking and display, dark shamanism, and the subjective pain inherent in acts of violence. Each author examines organized violence as a set of practices grounded in cultural understandings, even when the violence threatens the limits of those understandings. 

Blood and Beauty

The authors scrutinize the representations of, and relationships between, different types of organized violence, as well as the implications of those activities. These can include the unexpected, such as violence as a means of determining and curing illness, and the use of violence in negotiation strategies.

Table of Contents


Section I: Warfare

  • Ch. 01: Reconsidering Warfare in Formative Period Oaxaca by Andrew Workinger and Arthur A. Joyce
  • Ch. 02: Warrior Queens Among the Classic Maya by Kathryn Reese-Taylor, Peter Mathews, Julia Guernsey, and Marlene Fritzler
  • Ch. 03: Investiture and Violence At El Tajín and Cacaxtla by Rex Koontz
  • Section II: Ballgames and Boxing   
  • Ch. 04: Human Sacrifice in the Iconography of Veracruz Ballgame Sculptures by John Scott
  • Ch. 05: Playing Ball—Competition As A Political Tool by Adriana Agüero and Annick Daneels
  • Ch. 06: Games, Courts, and Players At Cotzumalhuapa, Guatemala by Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos
  • Ch. 07: American Gladiators: Ritual Boxing in Ancient Mesoamerica by Karl Taube and Marc Zender

Section III: Trophy-Head Taking    

  • Ch. 08: Heads of Flesh and Stone by Jane Stevenson Day
  • Ch. 09: Rolling Heads: The Diquís Stone Balls and Trophy-Head Taking in Ancient Costa Rica by Heather S. Orr

Section IV: Pain and Healing           

  • Ch. 10: Pretium Dolores, Or the Value of Pain in Mesoamerica by Claude-François Baudez
  • Ch. 11: Violent Acts of Curing: Pre-Columbian Metaphors of Birth and Sacrifice in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Illness “Writ Large” by John W. Hoopes and David Mora-Marín
  • Ch. 12: To Boast in Our Sufferings: The Problem of Pain IAncient Mesoamerica by Stephen Houston