Amy Maitland Gardner

Gestures in Late Classic Maya Art: A Classification and Interpretation of Ancient Maya Bodily Communication

My research focuses on understanding the role that gestures played in ancient Maya society through an analysis of Late Classic Maya figural art. Gestures, defined as body movements that express and communicate meaning, encode important information about how people relate to one another. In my thesis, I investigate the types of messages that different hand types and body postures communicated through Late Classic Maya iconography (on ceramic vessels, murals and stone monuments) and I explore the ways in which iconographic gestures were emblematic of the actions in daily engagements (of social, political, economic and ceremonial nature) performed in the communities in which the art was produced. With regard to Harri Kettunen’s (2006) methodological study of Nasal Motifs in Maya Iconography, my research places particular emphasis on methods for recording and analysing body elements (including full body postures, arm positions, hand types and hand placement). My research also features a cross-cultural comparative perspective on gestures (inspired by recent anthropological, sociological and psycholinguistic research) to stimulate hypotheses for the interpretation of ancient Maya bodily communication.

Funding organisation

  • AHRC


 Educational background

  • BA Hons., Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2009
  • MA, Comparative Art and Archaeology, UCL, 2010

2012. Staging Interactions: Etiquette and Ceremony at the Maya Royal Court. Paper presented at the 34th Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Liverpool, UK.

2012. The Maya Royal Court in a Comparative Perspective. Paper presented at Palatium, Utrecht, Netherlands.

2011. The Maya Royal Court: A Model for Rules of Engagement. Paper presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group, Birmingham, UK.

2011. Pallan Gayol, C. Benavides Castillo, A. and Maitland Gardner, A. La Portada Jeroglífica y Otros Monumentos de Hwasil: un centro Puuc del noroeste de Campeche. Proceedings of the 21st Encuentro ‘Los Investigadores de la Cultura Maya’, Campeche, Mexico; Noviembre 2011.

2011. Exploring Maya social and political interactions through a study of posture and gesture. Paper presented at the Institute of Archaeology Graduate Conference, UCL, London.

Bookmark and Share