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Newman, Sarah E.. Sensorial experiences in Mesoamerica: Existing Scholarship and Possibilities
2019, In The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology, Robin Skeates and Jo Day (eds.). Routledge
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal

The cultural construction of experience and perception has been a topic of interest among scholars working in Mesoamerica for decades. Archaeological remains, art, ancient and historic textual sources, and ethnographic observations complement and inform one another in those investigations, many of which stress the particular conceptions of bodies, sensorial hierarchies, and lived experiences across the culturally and linguistically connected region extending geographically from northern Mexico to Costa Rica. This chapter provides an overview of sensorial studies in Mesoamerica that highlights the rich and diverse evidence available. It emphasizes a diachronic, comparative approach, common in Mesoamericanist archaeology, which forces scholars to go beyond the identification of specific stimuli on discrete senses and enables them to study contexts of heightened synaesthetic experience, as well as those contexts’ affective and symbolic meanings. Finally, I suggest possibilities for considering an archaeology of the senses that extends beyond the limits of a singular human body in order to more fully embrace the conceptual nature of ancient Mesoamerican experience.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Newman begins by discussing the methodological challenges of understanding the experiences of ancient cultures. One of the ideas she emphasizes from precious scholarship is the claim that perception is not seen as passive and was taken to be the centre of consciousness. Newman goes through each of the five senses, noting the relevance of multi-modality for Nahua understanding of perceptual experience. It is useful to read it accompanied by Isabel, Laack. Aztec Pictorial Narratives, and using the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2 as a reference.

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