8053 - The Stone Masks of Teotihuacan: Defining the Corpus

Before we can answer certain questions about the stone masks associated with Teotihuacan, we must first define what objects constitute this corpus, as well as the quality of data associated with each individual object and the quality of data assigned to the corpus as a whole. From a database of ca. 250 examples and rising, several notable trends emerge. Although it is often said that the number of masks from excavated contexts numbers in the single digits, it is clear that a number of objects from early and mid-20th century excavations are not included in these totals. Expanding this part of the corpus improves our interpretive focus. At the same time, it also becomes clear that a large number (if not the vast majority) of known masks have very little in the way of collection history earlier than the 1950s. This raises serious questions as to the authenticity of many of these objects. Taken as a whole, the corpus includes objects that are indisputably authentic and others that are almost certainly forgeries. But in between lie other, hazier options and complicated object histories. By comparing this corpus and the social history of its formation with similar corpuses from other parts of the ancient world, notably Cycladic sculpture, this paper will outline options for understanding these enigmatic objects.

Keywords: Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan, Lithic Production, Art History, Historiography

Author: Matthew, Robb (Saint Louis Art Museum, Ud States of Am / USA)


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