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Sabbatical plans for Bernatz include study of Tikal burials
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sabbatical plans for Bernatz include study of Tikal burials

Dr. Michele Bernatz

Michele Bernatz, associate professor of Art History in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media, will focus her sabbatical on research and writing with the goal of producing a publishable article.

Her project is entitled, "The Ritual Practice of Dynastic Renewal: A Case Study of Two Tikal Burials," which investigates how social notions are manifest in the funerary setting. Dr. Bernatz explains that in the centuries from 400-800 C.E., the Maya people invested considerable time and energy in the construction of elaborate chamber burials inside of massive stone pyramids. Burial chambers were decorated with painted plaster and filled with luxury goods made of obsidian, marine shells, jade, pottery, textiles, wood, and feathers. The carefully placed deposits also included whole animals, musical instruments, food items, and even sacrificial humans. Funerary activities were aimed at celebrating ancestry, bolstering the status of lineage groups, and most importantly, securing the approval of godly patrons who could sustain the prosperity of good times, and conversely, bring positive renewal to a community suffering from poor agricultural production or losses in warfare.

Bernatz’s research looks closely at the relationship between socio-economic conditions and the crafting of funerary paraphernalia in order to understand shifting attitudes towards religion and governance. Her sabbatical research will help to advance scholarship in Maya studies and allow for expanded content in the courses she teaches at Fredonia.

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