El Paso Museum of Archaeology
4301 Transmountain Road
El Paso, Texas 79924
Marc Thompson, director of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, was graduated magna cum laude in anthropology from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received an M.A. degree in anthropology from the University of the Americas in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico, and conducted field work in the central Mexican highlands and the Maya lowlands. His M.A. thesis documented and analyzed ax factories at the late Classic Maya site of Becan, Campeche, Mexico. He completed a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Calgary in Alberta. His dissertation concerned iconological analysis and interpretation of figurative motifs in Mimbres black-on-white ceramic bowls. He has also conducted field work in Belize, Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, and California. He has been director of the El Paso Museum of Archaeology since 1998.
This illustrated presentation compares imagery from Mesoamerica and the Southwest that narrates the Hero Twins saga found in the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh and Pueblo Indian folk tales. Cognate depictions on Classic Maya and Classic Mimbres funerary bowls represent the characters, adventures, and deeds of twin culture heroes as well as pan-American concepts such as a watery underworld, a layered universe, and the apotheosis of two sets of twins as Venus (morning and evening stars) and the sun and the moon. These similarities and parallels suggest an ancient and deep structure of mythology and a shared ideology rather than diffusion from Mesoamerican cultures to the Southwest.
This illustrated presentation compares graphic imagery from Mesoamerican and Southwestern media (ceramics, sculpture, rock art) depicting shared ideologies with respect to Venus and the concept of duality that underlies virtually all American Indian religions. Dualities represented by alternatives (black and white, male and female, life and death, right and left) rather than opposites characterize a holistic view of the cosmos with tremendous geographical and chronological depth. Additionally, recent evidence from both culture areas suggests that Venus imagery often had associations with warfare as well as the timing and significance of hostilities within and between local cultures.
Scarlet macaw remains, feathers, and representations are found throughout Mesoamerica and the Southwest from Precolumbian through historic and modern times. Although native to southern Mexico, macaw remains are documented at numerous Pueblo and other sites in what is now the U.S. and northern Mexico. Similarities in depictions, treatments, and contexts suggest that scarlet macaws had similar meanings, uses, and significances in cultures widely separated in time and space. Trade in these birds for feather harvest and sacrifice related to commemoration of the solstices and equinoxes demonstrates that ethnically distinct American Indian cultures highly valued the red feathers.