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"Feasting with the Gods: Art and Ceremony in Ancient Mesoamerica and the Central Andes"
2003-12-12 until 2003-07-19
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle, WA, USA

Feasting with the Gods presents 35 objects from among the most significant civilizations of Mexico, Central and South America—including the ancient Mexican cultures of Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco (West Mexico, 300 B.C. – A.D. 200), the Olmec (1500 B.C – 600 B. C.) of the Gulf Coast, the Teotihuacan (1 – 700) and Aztec civilizations of Central Mexico; the Maya (250 – 900) of southern Mexico and parts of Belize, Honduras and El Salvador; the Central Andean cultures of the Moche (50 – 800), Chimu (ca. 1000 – 1400) and Inca (1450 – 1532) of modern-day Peru. 

The exhibition, a selection of exquisite pieces from the collection of Assen and Christine Nicolov, and from SAM’s permanent collection, presents an array of implements used in feasting rituals from the high-ranking elite to the commoner. Painted and sculpted images of revelers, musicians and ritualists give viewers an additional glimpse of the ancient world. Representations of gods and ancestors, most often the subjects of ritual devotion are ever-present reminders that rituals and ceremonies seek to temporarily blur the boundaries between the living and the dead, between rulers and deities, and between supernatural events and historic happenings.

Ritual and celebratory feasting is one of the most ancient and enduring aspects of human culture. Music, dance and special costumes accompanied feasting. Among the elite, ritual celebrations could include blood sacrifice, elaborate regalia, imbibing chocolate or beer, and staging dramatic enactments of mythic events. Feasting implements show imaginative as well as practical variety and were fashioned from stone, ceramic, wood, and precious metals including gold and silver. Terra cotta figures of humans shown singing and dancing were interred in shaft tombs for the pleasure of the deceased, as were objects of precious metal and jade. Monumental architectural edifices were adorned with stone and stucco images of deities who were the subject of celebrations, and shrines were adorned with stone statues of gods whose beneficence was courted in lavish rituals that may have included feasts, dances, drama and sacrifices.

Scholarship initiated by art historians, archaeologists, linguists and anthropologists continues to seek new understanding of the ancient art and culture of these complex societies. Work is also being done to establish relationships between living communities and their ancient forbearers.


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