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Gods And Symbols Of Ancient Mexico And The Maya [Paperback]

Mary Ellen Miller , Karl Taube
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 1997
The myths and beliefs of the great pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica have baffled and fascinated outsiders ever since the Spanish Conquest. Yet, until now, no single-volume introduction has existed to act as a guide to this labyrinthine symbolic world. The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya is the first-ever English-language dictionary of Mesoamerican mythology and religion. Nearly 300 entries, from accession to yoke, describe the main gods and symbols of the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Maya, Teotihuacanos, Mixtecs, Toltecs, and Aztecs. Topics range from jaguar and jester gods to reptile eye and rubber, from creation accounts and sacred places to ritual practices such as bloodletting, confession, dance, and pilgrimage. In addition, two introductory essays provide succinct accounts of Mesoamerican history and religion, while a substantial bibliographical survey directs the reader to original sources and recent discussions. Dictionary entries are illustrated with photographs and specially commissioned line drawings. Mary Miller and Karl Taube draw on their research in the fast-changing field of Maya studies, and on the latest Mexican discoveries, to produce an authoritative work that will serve as a standard reference for students, scholars, and travelers.

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Well-written and comprehensive...the book has not left my desk. -- Latin American Antiqity

About the Author

Mary Miller is Professor of History of Art at Yale. She is the author of The Murals of Bonampak, The Art of Mesoamerica (in Thames and Hudson's World of Art series), and coauthor, with Linda Schele, of The Blood of Kings. Karl Taube is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Riverside. Conversant in Yucatec Mayan, Professor Taube has conducted archaeological and ethnographic research in Yucatn, and is a leading scholar of Mesoamerican writing and iconography.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift from the Gods Nov. 21 2000
I am not a seven year grad student of the authors but a curious amateur anthropologist, former history teacher who loves art. That said this is the perfect book for the average layman, not too technical or with an overabundance of esoteric jargon. ... This book is filled with just about everything you need to know about the fabulous cultures that existed in Meso-America. All the famous cultures are covered including the Toltecs, Olmecs, Zapotecs and every other "tec" or "mec" you could imagine. Although the focus is the Gods, it is nearly impossible to cover the Gods without adressing the issue of culture. Some very fascinating information that even the most knowledgeable of readers will find captivating. Upon first getting the book I went through half the book in one sitting!! No matter your base of understanding there is something to learn here. A reference book but yet very readable as it is well written and full of great illustrations and photgraphs. The good thing is that if you don't feel like reading page after page, some drawing will catch your fancy and the next thing you know you are reading about it. So whatever the mood there is something here for the reader at all times. The paper is of thick stock and the size is handy enough to put in your backpack to take anywhere. Since I am not a scholar and have a limited understanding of the subjects, much clarification was given to issues I knew about but didn't fully understand. ... So the book is full of information that clarifies and breaks down all aspects of ancient Mexico, even those that have somehow been lost in the shuffle of modern times. Arranged as any dictionary alphabetically, it is a valuable source of information for all interested in Meso-American Gods and symbols and their meanings. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for the amature Mayanist! March 20 2003
This is a great refereance book for the amature Mayanist. "Gods and Symbols" is filled with specialized facts, covering subjects from Olmec to Aztec times in good detail. It is readable for both beginners and experts. The amount of information can be overwhelming at times; it therefore is useful to have some background knowledge beforehand to be able to place facts in a larger contextual framework. However, the book's intent is to be a refereance work so this should be expected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Already a classic March 5 2001
One of THE definitive reference works for everyone even remotely interested in the cultures of ancient Mesoamerica, "Gods and Symbols" well comprises the most important as well as more specialized facts, covering all its subjects from Olmec to Aztec times in the same amount of detail. It's written to be accessible to both beginners and people more firm with the subjects, and certainly offers more than enough for both groups. However, although the cross-references are fine, the encyclopaedic, culture-jumping approach makes for a somewhat fractured read, and the sheer amount of information can prove overwhelming at times; it therefore could be useful to have some background knowledge beforehand that can help you place facts in a larger contextual framework when you need to. However, this hardly is a reason for criticism given the book's intent, and it doesn't stop it from being a highly readable standard work I can unhesitatingly recommend to just about anyone.
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By A Customer
I am a seven-year graduate student of Dr. Karl Taube, at the University of California, Riverside. I highly recommend this text to anyone interested in the gods, religion, or iconography of ancient Mesoamerica. There exists no book in English comparable to this one. This book is concise, yet packed with a plethora of hand-drawn illustrations by the authors and laden with inumerable useful tidbits of interest to scholars, lay-men, art historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians. Quite honestly, this book is perfect for anyone needing a quick but poignant and on-the-mark "dictionary" type reference from two of the best cutting-edge scholars in ancient Mesoamerican studies today. You will definately get your money's worth with this choice - buy it today! By-the-way, this is an unpaid advertisement; strictly a humble review by a graduate student who worships the ground Drs. Taube and Miller walk on - tanslated, not biased in the least.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Late Delivery Nov. 25 2001
By A Customer
I ordered this book on November 18, 2001 and it is now November 26, 2001, and I still have not received this book. Also, the sample pages are all text, yet the title says an Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods.... I am looking for a book with good illustrations of the Aztec Gods.
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