To what degree were representations in ancient art, architecture, and performance revisions of history in their own time?
This is the question posed by Franco D. Rossi, Austen-Stokes Postdoctoral Fellow in the Art of the Ancient Americas at Johns Hopkins University, and one of two recipients (along with Caitlin C. Earley, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Nevada, Reno) of the 2021 ACLS H. and T. King Fellowship in Ancient American Art and Culture.
Through his project, Revisions of Sovereignty: The Art and Epigraphy of Xultun, Guatemala, Rossi is exploring this question at the Classic period Maya archaeological site of Xultun. His work represents a growing, but often underrecognized, area of study focused on the artistic and intellectual accomplishments of Indigenous peoples of the pre-contact Americas, particularly in Mexico, Central, and South America.
Heidi and Tim King worked with ACLS to establish this fellowship in 2018, recognizing the need for more advanced research to increase understanding and appreciation of the contributions and achievements made by early inhabitants of the Americas, in hopes of significantly influencing conversations that miscast societies outside Euro-descended traditions as “stone-age cultures,” which has traditionally been driven by Eurocentric thinking.
“The ACLS H. and T. King Fellowship in Ancient American Art and Culture will allow me to focus the time and resources necessary to bring the methodologies of art history, epigraphy, and archaeology together in book form in order to map and understand representational trends and their connection to crafted and performed histories at Xultun,” Rossi shared.
In addition to supporting Rossi’s research and work on a manuscript, the fellowship will allow him to make a significant contribution to the broader, long-term project conducted by the San Bartolo Regional Archaeological Project (PRASBX) in collaboration with local and descendent communities in Guatemala. The PRASBX international partnership, directed by Dr. Heather Hurst F’18, is working toward jointly curating long-term research through digital humanities platforms, ultimately making the remarkable collection of murals, architecture, and local narratives of the region more accessible to students and scholars around the world.
By putting material culture and art history in dialogue with anthropological theory, my work examines how ancient schools were intimately involved in the crafting and transmission of specialized expertise across time.
Franco D. Rossi
2021 ACLS H. and T. King Fellow in Ancient American Art and Culture
Rossi (second row, center) on a Zoom call with PRASBX colleagues
“By putting material culture and art history in dialogue with anthropological theory, my work examines how ancient schools were intimately involved in the crafting and transmission of specialized expertise across time,” Rossi explained. “After over twenty years of data collection in Guatemala, our project has assembled a great deal of information about the intricate political ecologies of education and statecraft in this milieu, and I am delighted to have an opportunity to share this work more broadly with many other communities and thinkers through the planned book manuscript.”
Directly aligned with the spirit and passion in which the Kings established the fellowship, the culminating research and publications of Rossi’s project will help bring more attention to these important works and their significance as we continue to learn and teach about how our past has impacted our present and will continue to influence our future.
Discover more about the San Bartolo Regional Archaeological Project on Instagram and Twitter.
ACLS is accepting applications for this year’s ACLS King Fellowship through September 29, 2021. Learn more about this and other fellowship and grant opportunities.